The warden at the federal detention center where Jeffrey Epstein died of an apparent suicide has been reassigned, and two staffers tasked with monitoring his unit have been placed on leave, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
The move comes a day after Attorney General William P. Barr decried what he called a “failure” by officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan to secure the multimillionaire sex offender. In leveling his criticism, Barr cited unspecified “irregularities” at the facility.
On Tuesday, Barr “directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign” warden Lamine N’Diaye to a regional office, pending the outcome of internal investigations into Epstein’s death, the Justice Department said in a statement. Two staffers who were assigned to Epstein’s unit at the time of his death were placed on administrative leave, the department said.
Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he died. Results of his autopsy are pending.
He was being held in a special housing unit of the MCC and should have been checked on by the staff every 30 minutes. But correctional officers had not checked on Epstein for “several” hours before he was found around 6:30 a.m. Saturday when the staff were handing out breakfast to inmates, a person familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
“Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant,” the department’s statement says.
Epstein, 66, was found hanging in his cell, according to officials familiar with the matter. The facility is run by the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department and falls under Barr’s authority.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general have been aggressively investigating Epstein’s death, focusing on apparent breakdowns of policy at the facility in the hours before staffers discovered him unresponsive.
Speaking Monday to law enforcement officials in New Orleans, Barr said he “was appalled … and, frankly, angry” to learn of the detention center’s “failure to adequately secure” Epstein.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” he said.
Barr did not specify what irregularities had been found in the aftermath of Epstein’s death but vowed to “get to the bottom of what happened,” adding, “There will be accountability.”
Lawmakers also demanded answers from federal officials. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday addressed a letter to acting Bureau of Prisons director Hugh Hurwitz demanding answers to questions about Epstein’s time in federal detention and asserting that Epstein’s death “demonstrates severe miscarriages of or deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice.”
The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment Monday on Barr’s criticism.