By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
New York, NY – Just three weeks after the government denied the security footage of accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s first suicide attempt had gone missing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has admitted that the surveillance footage was not properly preserved and no longer exists.
A court filing said the surveillance footage from outside the cell during Epstein’s first suicide attempt “no longer exists” because of technical errors and an unintentional mix-up, WGN reported.
The letter claimed that prison officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) had used the wrong cell number and inadvertently saved unrelated footage from another floor in the jail.
“MCC inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier within the MCC, and, as a result, video from outside the defendant’s cell on July 22-23, 2019 (i.e. the requested video) no longer exists,” US Attorney’s Office said, according to WGN.
The missing video was brought to the court’s attention on Dec. 18, 2019.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold admitted to the judge that the footage was nowhere to be found – despite requests from his cellmate’s attorney that the videos be retained, the New York Daily News reported.
“It is our understanding…that the video no longer exists,” Swergold admitted to U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas. “It was not preserved.”
Karas told prosecutors to dig into what happened to the video.
However, the latest court filing said that the MCC’s backup system had been checked and “the requested video no longer exists on the backup system and has not since at least August 2019 as a result of technical errors,” according to WGN.
Bruce Barket, the attorney for Epstein’s former cellmate, Nicholas Tartaglione, said in December that he was shocked to discover that jail officials hadn’t safeguarded the footage, especially after he filed formal paperwork requesting that they do so two days after Epstein’s first suicide attempt, The Journal News reported.
Tartaglione, who is facing a possible death sentence in connection with a drug-related quadruple homicide, previously claimed that he helped to save Epstein’s life after he found him unconscious in their cell in the wake of the suicide attempt, the New York Daily News reported at the time.
Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor police officer, had shared a cell with the billionaire for about two weeks prior to the suicide attempt.
“Nick acted appropriately and admirably,” Barket told the New York Daily News.
In the event the accused murderer is convicted, Tartaglione’s defense team wanted to have access to the video to argue that he does not deserve the death penalty.
“We think ultimately it will portray Nick in a positive light,” Barket told The Journal News.
Epstein was initially moved to another area of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) and placed on suicide watch after the failed attempt.
More than a week later, he was returned to the cellblock and given a new cellmate.
That unnamed inmate was taken out of the cell on Aug. 8, 2019 leaving the billionaire alone.
MCC correctional officers found the 66-year-old Tier 3 sex offender hanging in his cell at around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2019 according to ABC News.
Epstein was transported to New York Downtown Hospital in cardiac arrest before he was declared dead.
The billionaire had been jailed while facing charges for sexually abusing and trafficking children.
Despite the fact that it is protocol to put a prisoner who has just been taken off suicide watch in a cell with another prisoner, Epstein didn’t get a new roommate before he allegedly killed himself, The New York Times reported.
Two prison officials have said that the staff members on duty the night Epstein tried to kill himself were supposed to be checking on him every 30 minutes, but had not looked in on him for three hours before he was found hanging.
Officials said that the employees had falsely recorded checks every 30 minutes in the logbook.
Three different officials told The New York Times that both employees had been asleep some, or all, of the three-hour period that preceded them finding Epstein hanging from his upper bunk by a bedsheet.
Epstein, who was closely associated with former President Bill Clinton, was facing countless charges for incidents with underage girls in his various homes and on his private jet known as the “Lolita Express.”
His death was anything but clear-cut.
Authorities said Epstein was found hanging from a noose fashioned from bedsheets, tied to the side of his bed, and after an initial delay, the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
But a highly-respected pathologist hired by the billionaire’s family to observe the autopsy has repeatedly said that the medical evidence suggested homicide was far more likely than suicide in Epstein’s case.
That, on top of the fact that Epstein was left alone in his cell, the surveillance cameras nearby stopped working at the time of his death, and the guards on duty claim to have been napping when he died, has inspired a justified conspiracy theory that has become a viral social media phenomenon.
Two federal Bureau of Prisons correctional officers, Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, were indicted in November in connection with Epstein's death.
Both correctional officers turned down plea deals after they were advised that federal prosecutors were preparing to file charges against them for allegedly fabricating official prison log entries, the Associated Press reported.