U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters
Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is on a suicide watch after the wealth financier was found mysteriously injured in his cell in a federal jail in New York City, WNBC-TV reported Wednesday night.
Epstein, who was arrested in early July on federal charges, was on the floor of his cell in a fetal position when he was discovered, sources told NBC. He was semi-conscious and had marks on his neck when he was found.
Epstein may have tried to hang himself in the lower Manhattan lockup, according to sources who spoke with WNBC-TV.
But another source said Epstein’s injuries were not serious, and raised the possibility that he may have used the incident to try obtain a transfer from the jail.
A fourth source who spoke with NBC said that officials have not ruled out the chance that Epstein was assaulted in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Another inmate in that jail, where Epstein is being held without bail, has been questioned about the incident.
NBC reported that the inmate was Nicholas Tartaglione, a former Orange County, New York, police officer who was arrested in December 2016 and accused of killing four men in an alleged cocaine distribution conspiracy.
Tartaglione has pleaded not guilty in his case. Prosecutors announced in March they would seek the death penalty for the ex-cop.
Spokesman for the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the U.S. Bureau of Prison and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting Epstein, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
CNBC has also reached out to Epstein’s lawyers requesting comment.
Bruce Barket, a defense lawyer for Tartaglione, said in an email to CNBC that, “Any suggestion that Mr. Tartaglione assault[ed] anyone is a complete fabrication.”
“This story is being leaked to retaliate against Mr. Tartaglione for complaining to the court about the deplorable conditions at the MCC,” Barket said.
“We made those complaints on Monday in open court … We warned the judge that officials at the jail would retaliate against Nick because we have been exposing the inhumane conditions at the facility.”
Epstein, 66, was indicted this month on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
A judge last week denied him bail of upwards of $100 million because he represented a danger to women if released, and his risk of flight due to his vast wealth.
Judge Richard Berman also noted the fact that Epstein had in recent months made large payments to potential witnesses against him, and the discovery by FBI agents of a trove of lewd photographs of young women at his Manhattan townhouse.
“This newly discovered evidence also suggests that Mr. Epstein poses ‘ongoing and forward-looking danger,'” the judge wrote. “Mr. Epstein’s dangerousness is considerable and includes sex crimes with minor girls and tampering with potential witnesses.”
Epstein’s lawyers on Monday notifed Berman that they plan to appeal his bail denial.
Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, has pleaded not guilty in the case.
Prosecutors say he sexually abused dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his New York City townhouse and Palm Beach, Florida, who visited him under the guise of giving him massages. Some of the girls were as young as 14 years old.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges in Florida related to an underage girl.
He served 13 months in custody in that case, but spent much of that time on work release.
He was not prosecuted on federal charges at the time due to a non-prosecution agreement he reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, which was headed at the time by Alex Acosta. Acosta resigned this month as U.S. Labor secretary after controversy over that deal.