Jeffrey Epstein: Prison guards set to be charged over his death in his cell

19 November 2019, 14:51 | Updated: 19 November 2019, 17:02

Two prison officers who were tasked with guarding the disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein on the night he died in his cell are set to be charged.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the workers at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York are to be charged with falsifying prison records - the first criminal charges in connection with Epstein's death.

The pair - who have reportedly turned down the offer of a plea bargain - are suspected of failing to check on the convicted sex offender every half-hour and of fabricating log entries to make it look as though they had.

They were working overtime because of staffing shortages when Epstein was found on 10 August, less than a month after he was placed on suicide watch after he was found on his cell floor with bruises on his neck.

AP reports that Epstein was taken off suicide watch about a week before he died, meaning he was less closely monitored, but he was still supposed to be checked every 30 minutes.

Epstein was due to go on trial accused of sexually abusing teenage girls at the time of his death, the official cause of which was given as suicide by hanging.

It has since been claimed by forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who was hired by Epstein's brother, that he more likely died from being strangled, with multiple fractures found in his neck.

Several conspiracy theories have been borne out of Epstein's death, which ended the possibility of a high-profile trial many hoped would involve prominent figures within his celebrity social circle.

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Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls and other young women in New York and Florida, with his alleged crimes having taken place in the early 2000s.

Around a decade before the charges were filed, Epstein, 66, evaded a potential life jail sentence after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault.

He avoided federal charges thanks to a plea deal struck by then US attorney Alexander Acosta, who went on to become labour secretary under President Donald Trump.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges on two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor, which saw him registered as a sex offender and handed an 18-month sentence, of which he served 13 months.

Despite his death, prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating any further allegations made against Epstein and to charge anyone who may have helped him.

On Monday, a woman who claims to have been trafficked and abused by Epstein announced her intention to file a lawsuit against him.

Speaking at a press conference alongside lawyer Gloria Allred, the unnamed woman said she hoped that speaking out would encourage others to come forward.

She also called on Prince Andrew to speak to US law officials about his friendship with Epstein.

Afterwards, Ms Allred told Sky News: "Given that he was in so many of the homes and locations Mr Epstein was in, he does have valuable information that he could provide to law enforcement."

It came after Andrew gave a controversial interview with BBC Newsnight, which aired on Saturday, during which he denied any knowledge of Epstein's crimes.

He also addressed pictures taken of the pair in New York two years after the American was jailed for two charges of procuring underage girls in Florida.