by Holly Matkin and Christopher Berg
New York, NY – Convicted pedophile and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was discovered nearly unresponsive in his jail cell Saturday morning, and officials are saying that he wasn't on suicide watch.
CNBC reports that the FBI is now investigating the 66-year-old Tier 3 sex offender's suicide in his jail cell Saturday morning.
“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” Attorney General William Barr said in response.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death,” Barr said.
It was widely assumed that Epstein was on suicide watch after an apparent prior suicide attempt in July. At that time, he was found in his jail cell with neck injuries and was transported to the hospital for treatment.
Metropolitan Correctional Center has a suicide watch which normally keeps inmates in open view with no fixtures which should allow for hanging.
It's not clear why the billionaire at the center of a high-profile case wasn't placed into the suicide prevention program.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center correction officers found the sex offender hanging in his cell at around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, according to ABC News.
He was transported to New York Downtown Hospital in cardiac arrest before he was declared dead.
Epstein had been jailed while facing charges for sexually abusing and trafficking children.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, according to his plea agreement, CNBC reported.
He was sentenced to 13 months in prison but spent the bulk of his sentence out on work release or in the private wing of the prison.
Epstein was also required to register as a sex offender in Florida, CNBC reported.
The sex offender registration was in connection with the shady plea deal made in 2008 with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who went on to become Secretary of Labor under President Donald Trump.
Acosta was forced to resign from the administration after Epstein’s arrest on July 6 revealed the questionable details of the prior plea agreement.
In February, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating how Epstein’s case was handled by federal prosecutors at the time, CNBC reported.
That deal is currently being challenged in federal court in Florida, FOX News reported.
On July 8, Epstein was federally indicted on charges that between 2002 and 2005, he preyed on “dozens” of underage girls in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and used his victims to create and maintain a “vast network” by paying them to recruit new underage girls for him to sexually abuse.
According to the indictment, Epstein paid victims as young as 14 hundreds of dollars to engage in sexual acts with him at his New York and Palm Beach mansions, FOX News reported.
Then he also paid his victims hundreds of dollars to recruit more underage girls for him to sexually abuse.
"In so doing, Epstein maintained a steady supply of new victims to exploit," federal prosecutors said, according to FOX News.
Epstein ultimately built a network that allowed him to continuously “sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors said that Epstein or his assistants invited underage girls to his Manhattan residence to give the billionaire a massage, FOX News reported.
"The victims, who were as young as 14 years of age, were told by Epstein or other individuals to partially or fully undress before beginning the 'massage,'" the indictment read. "During the encounter, Epstein would escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victims to include, among other things, sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim's genitals."
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said investigators searched Epstein’s New York mansion after his arrest on July 6 and found nude pictures "of what appeared to be underage girls," FOX News reported.
Epstein had been on the radar of federal authorities and the subject of investigation for years.
During the time when he was racking up his latest charges sexually assaulting children, he should have been checking in with NYPD’s Sex Offender Monitoring Unit (SOMU) every 90 days in the Manhattan criminal courthouse, the New York Post reported.
Police sources told the New York Post that the whole thing made no sense.
“The NYPD can’t modify a court order,” a police source said. “If the judge says he has to report here, he has to report here.”
NYPD told the New York Post that it had believed Epstein wasn’t required to check in because his primary residence was his private island in the Caribbean.
But that exact argument was tossed by New York Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz back on Jan. 18, 2011 when Epstein’s defense attorneys tried to make it.
That was the same bizarre hearing where the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office tried to help Epstein get labeled as a Level One sex offender instead of the more rigorous Level Three classification, the New York Post reported.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office has since said that was a mistake made by an attorney who no longer works for them.
But that doesn’t explain why the district attorney’s office has done nothing to make Epstein comply with the judge’s order to check in.
The officer assigned to monitor Epstein has repeatedly complained to Vance’s office that the billionaire was not in compliance, but sources said the only thing the district attorney’s office did about it was to instruct the officer to send a letter to the sex offender reminding him of his reporting requirement, the New York Post reported.
Vance’s office denied that allegation and pointed the finger back at NYPD.
“The NYPD — which is the agency responsible for monitoring SORA compliance — has repeatedly told us that Mr. Epstein was in full compliance with the law,” a spokesman for Vance’s office told the New York Post.
A failure-to-report violation is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison – and an additional seven years in prison for each subsequent violation.
The New York Post estimated that Epstein has missed 34 check-ins since he was given the Level Three sex offender status.
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton fended off numerous questions about her and former President Bill Clinton’s travel to Epstein’s private Caribbean island aboard his private jet known as the “Lolita Express.”