NEW YORK (AP) — Two weeks before taking his own life, Jeffrey Epstein sat in the corner of his Manhattan jail cell with his hands over his ears, desperate to muffle the sound of a toilet that wouldn’t stop running .
Epstein was agitated and unable to sleep, prison officials noted in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press. He called himself a “coward” and complained that he was struggling to adjust to life behind bars following his July 2019 arrest on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges – his life of luxury reduced to a cage of concrete and steel .
The disgraced financier was at the time under psychological observation for a suicide attempt just days earlier that left his neck bruised and abraded. But even after a 31-hour stint on suicide watch, Epstein insisted he wasn’t suicidal, telling a prison psychologist he had a “great life” and would “be crazy” to end it.
On August 10, 2019, Epstein was dead.
Nearly four years later, the AP has obtained more than 4,000 pages of documents related to Epstein’s death from the federal Bureau of Prisons under the Freedom of Information Act. They include a detailed psychological reconstruction of the events leading up to Epstein’s suicide, as well as his health history, internal agency reports, emails and memos, and other records.
Taken together, the documents obtained by the AP on Thursday provide the most complete accounting yet of Epstein’s detention and death, and its chaotic aftermath. The data helps to dispel the many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s suicide, highlighting how fundamental flaws at the Bureau of Prisons — including severe staff shortages and employee cuts — contributed to Epstein’s death.
They shed new light on the confused response of the Federal Prison Service after Epstein became unresponsive in his cell at New York City’s now-closed Metropolitan Correctional Center.
In an email, a prosecutor involved in Epstein’s criminal case complained about a lack of information from the Bureau of Prisons in the critical hours after his death, writing that it was “frankly unbelievable” that the bureau was going public. issued press releases “before telling us basic information so we can pass it on to his lawyers who can pass it on to his family.
In another email, a senior Bureau of Prisons official made a false suggestion to the bureau’s director that news reporters must have paid prison officials for information about Epstein’s death because they reported details of the bureau’s shortcomings — contrary to with the ethics of journalists and the agency’s own employees.
The documents also offer a new insight into Epstein’s behavior during his 36 days in jail, including his previously unreported attempt to contact another high-profile pedophile by mail: Larry Nassar, the US gymnastics team doctor who is convicted of sexually assaulting dozens of athletes.
Epstein’s letter to Nassar was found in the prison’s mailroom weeks after Epstein’s death. “It looked like he posted it and it was returned to him,” the investigator who found the letter told a prison official by email. “I’m not sure if I should open it or if we should hand it over to someone?”
The letter itself was not among the documents transferred to the AP.
The night before Epstein’s death, he apologized from meeting with his lawyers to call his family. According to a memo from a unit manager, Epstein told a prison officer he called his mother, who had been dead for 15 years at the time.
Epstein’s death brought increased attention to the Bureau of Prisons and sparked an AP investigation that has revealed deep, previously unreported problems within the agency, the largest in the Justice Department with more than 30,000 employees. 158,000 prisoners and an annual budget of about $8 billion.
AP reporting has revealed rampant sexual abuse and other criminal behavior by staff, as well as dozens of escapes, inmate deaths and severe staff shortages that have hampered emergency response.
An internal memo, undated but sent after Epstein’s death, attributed problems at the now-closed prison to “severely reduced staffing, improper or lack of training, and follow-up and supervision.” The memo also details steps the Bureau of Prisons has taken to remedy Epstein’s exposed suicide attempts, including requiring supervisors to review surveillance video to ensure officers have completed required cell checks.
The workers charged with guarding Epstein the night he killed himself, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were accused of lying about prison records to make it appear they had done their required checks before Epstein was found in his cell .
Prosecutors alleged that they sat at their desks just 15 feet from Epstein’s cell, shopped online for furniture and motorcycles, and walked around the unit’s common area instead of making the required rounds every 30 minutes.
During a two-hour period, both appeared to have slept, according to their charges. Noel and Thomas admitted to forging the logbook entries, but avoided jail time through a deal with federal prosecutors. Copies of some of those logs were included in the documents released Thursday, with the guards’ signatures redacted.
Epstein arrived at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on July 6, 2019. He spent 22 hours in the prison’s general population before officials moved him to the special housing unit “due to the significant increase in media coverage and awareness of his notoriety among the incarcerated population. ‘ according to the psychological reconstruction of his death.
Epstein later said he was upset about having to wear an orange jumpsuit provided to inmates in the special housing unit and complained that he was treated like a “bad guy” despite being well behaved behind bars. He requested a brown uniform for his almost daily visits to his lawyers.
During an initial health screening, the 66-year-old said he had had more than 10 female sexual partners in the past five years. Medical records revealed that he suffered from sleep apnea, constipation, hypertension, lower back pain and prediabetes and had previously been treated for chlamydia.
Epstein did make some attempts to adapt to his prison environment, the data shows. He signed up for a kosher meal and told prison officials through his lawyer that he wanted permission to exercise outside. Two days before he was found dead, Epstein purchased $73.85 worth of items from the prison commissioner, including an AM/FM radio and headphones. He had $566 left in his account when he died.
Epstein’s prospects took a turn for the worse when a judge denied him bail on July 18, 2019 — raising the prospect that he would remain incarcerated until trial and possibly longer. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison. Four days later, Epstein was found on the floor of his cell with a strip of sheet around his neck.
Epstein survived. His injuries did not require hospitalization. He was placed on suicide watch and later under psychiatric observation. Prison officers noted in logs that they saw him “sitting on the edge of the bed, lost in thought” and sitting “with his head against the wall.”
Epstein expressed his frustration with the noise of the prison and his lack of sleep. During his first few weeks at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Epstein did not have his sleep apnea respirator that he used. Then the toilet in his cell started acting up.
“He was still left in the same cell with a broken toilet,” the prison’s chief psychologist wrote in an email the next day. “Please move him to the cell next door when he comes back from legality because the toilet still doesn’t work.”
The day before Epstein ended his life, a federal judge unsealed about 2,000 pages of documents in a sexual assault lawsuit against him. That development, prison officials
noted, further eroded Epstein’s previous elevated status.
That, coupled with a lack of significant interpersonal connections and “the idea of potentially spending his life in prison, were likely contributing factors to Mr. Epstein’s suicide,” officials wrote.
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland, Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, Sam Metz in Salt Lake City, Jake Offenhartz and David B. Caruso in New York, Russ Bynum in Savanah, Georgia, Gene Johnson in Seattle, and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.