(NEW YORK) — The two correctional officers on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide were indicted on Tuesday.
The charges include falsifying government documents.
The two correctional officers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were charged with “making false records and conspiring to make false records and to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a Manhattan detention facility that houses federal inmates,” a release from the Southern District of New York said.
“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Noel and Thomas pleaded not guilty and were each released on $100,000 bond. They are due back in court Dec. 11 for a pretrial conference.
The indictment goes into more detail about the morning when Epstein was found dead.
“Epstein was alone in his cell and not responsive with a noose around his neck. A supervisor who had just started his shift responded to the alarm almost immediately thereafter, as Noel approached the door to the SHU (Special Housing Unit) to open the door for Supervisor-1, Noel told Supervisor-1 ‘Epstein hung himself’,” the indictment says. “After arriving in the SHU, Supervisor-1 spoke with Thomas and Noel. Noel told Supervisor-1 ‘we did not make that 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. rounds.’ Thomas stated ‘we messed up,’ and ‘I messed up, she’s not to blame, we didn’t do any rounds.'”
Court documents also confirm that Epstein previously tried to kill himself in July.
The Bureau of Prisons local union is already standing by the officers.
“We are disappointment with the indictments released today by the Southern District of New York. These indictments don’t address the core issues inside of the Metropolitan Correctional Center New York or the Federal Prison system in its entirety. These staff were placed in an assignment where the tools and resources needed to be successful were not available. Simply assigning blame will not correct the staff shortages that put this chain of events in place,” Tyrone Covington, who represents the Correctional Officers Union, and is Local President Local 3148 said.
“While the indictment indicates these staff did not conduct [a] 30 minute round, it is a fact that even had they conducted the 30 minute rounds, Mr. Epstein still would’ve had 29 minutes to take his own life. It is clear to us that these indictments are a mask to cover up the true issues and merely be able to create a narrative that government has taken action. The Council Of Prisons Local 3148 will stand with all staff impacted by the events at MCC NY. We encourage the public at large to look at the facts of this event. It is important not to rush to judgment but instead be mindful and open to all the facts in the case,” he continued.
The director of the Bureau of Prisons responded to the allegations today in a written statement.
“Any allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the agency and will be responded to appropriately. I am committed to this agency and am confident we will restore the public’s trust in us,” she said.
During her testimony on Tuesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she urged any U.S. Attorney to pursue charges against any correctional officer found sleeping on the job.
Epstein, 66, who was being held at the jail without bail, was found unresponsive in his cell around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, the Bureau of Prisons said. He was later pronounced dead at a Manhattan hospital.
ABC News has previously reported that a review of the security cameras at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan showed that two guards who were supposed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes never made their appointed rounds in the hours when the sex offender died, sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to ABC News.
A source confirmed that the charges trump the internal Bureau of Prisons’ “after-action” report, which has not been completed yet.
Bureau of Prisons Director Kathy Hawk Sawyer foreshadowed the charges in a memo obtained by ABC News earlier this month.
“As I have noted in previous messages, recent reviews of institution operations revealed that some staff members failed to conduct rounds and counts in housing units, yet documented they had done so,” Hawk Sawyer wrote in the internal memo dated Nov. 4.
One prison union official described the memo as “hypocritical,” and said that it will have a chilling effect on senior officers working in the Special Housing Unit.
“They have put inmates on equal par with the staff,” that same union official said.
Hawk Sawyer issued a warning that falsifying rounds is a violation of policy and even could be subject to criminal charges.
The director is due to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary committee on Tuesday.
At least one federal prison has cracked down on correctional officers not making their appointed rounds.
A separate memo obtained by ABC News, dated Oct. 28, showed that recently an employee was disciplined at the federal correctional facility in Tallahassee for not making their appointed rounds. The employee was placed on phone duty.
The source who provided the memo said the reassignment and internal investigation was directly related to the two correctional officers not making their appointed rounds at MCC New York.
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