A New York Medical Examiner’s car is parked outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center where financier Jeffrey Epstein was being held, on August 10, 2019, in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
The warden of the federal jail in New York City where wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself was replaced Tuesday on orders of Attorney General William Barr pending investigations into the incident, the Justice Department said.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also placed two staffers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center who had been assigned to Epstein’s cell unit on administrative leave as probes into the death of the accused child sex trafficker continue.
“Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
Replacing Shirley Skipper-Scott as acting warden of the MCC is James Petrucci, the warden of the federal prison in Otisville, New York.
Skipper-Scott has been transferred to the Bureau of Prison’s Northeast Regional Office.
A lawyer for Epstein, who was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Bureau of Prisons also did not respond for a request for comment.
The death of Epstein on Saturday morning infuriated Barr, members of Congress, Epstein’s defense lawyers and attorneys for women who have claimed they were sexually abused as underage girls by Epstein at his properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida.
The FBI and the Inspector General of the Justice Department now are investigating the incident.
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2008.
Uma Sanghvi | Palm Beach Post | Reuters
Epstein, who sources have said hanged himself, was being held without bail in a section of the MCC known as the Special Housing Unit, or SHU.
The unit is used for high-profile prisoners who are at risk of violence from the general population, as well as for inmates who are a threat to others.
Last month, weeks after being arrested on sex trafficking charges, Epstein was found semi-conscious in his cell, with marks on his neck.
He then was placed on suicide watch — but for some reason was taken off that watch less than a week later.
Barr said Monday that his department had learned of “serious irregularities” in the MCC, and vowed that “there will be accountability” in the wake of Epstein’s suicide.
“I was appalled, and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry, to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner,” Barr said.
Later Monday, The New York Times reported that one of the two people who had been guarding Epstein was “not a full-fledged correctional officer,” and neither of the two guards “had checked on Epstein for several hours before he was discovered.”
Epstein, 66, had pleaded not guilty in the case, and was being held in the MCC without bail.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kupec, in a prepared statement said: “Today, the Attorney General directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York to the Bureau’s Northeast Regional Office pending the outcome of the FBI and OIG investigations into the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, a former MCC inmate.”
“FCI Otisville Warden James Petrucci has been named Acting Warden of the MCC New York. The Bureau of Prisons also placed on administrative leave two MCC staff assigned to Mr. Epstein’s unit pending the outcome of the investigations,” Kupec said. “Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant.”
A representative for the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the DOJ’s statement.