Attorney General William Barr on Monday said he removed the acting director of the federal Bureau of Prisons from his job in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a federal jail in Manhattan earlier this month where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Hugh Hurwitz had been the agency’s acting director. Barr said Hurwitz would remain in the Bureau of Prisons as the assistant director of department’s Reentry Services Division.
Hurwitz’s ouster comes nine days after Epstein, the millionaire financier and accused sex trafficker, died by apparent suicide while in federal custody.
Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide August 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
He was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. He had apparently hanged himself, and was found unresponsive at around 6:30 a.m. ET.
The center’s warden, Lamine N’Diaye, has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave.
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The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating how Epstein was able to take his own life while he was being held. Barr has said “serious irregularities” had been found at the lock up.
Barr, in a statement Monday, said he’d appointed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the bureau’s new director and Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the its new deputy director. The statement makes no reference to Epstein.
“I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers.”
Sawyer served as the bureau’s chief from 1992 to 2003. She was appointed when Barr was the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Kane worked in several senior roles in the agency from 1977 to 2018.
At least one Republican offered modest praise following Barr’s move.
“This is a good start, but it’s not the end. Jeffrey Epstein should still be in a padded cell and under constant surveillance, but the justice system has failed Epstein’s victims at every turn,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who had previously demanded that “heads must roll” at the Justice Department because of the Epstein suicide.
Lawmakers and Trump administration officials have expressed outrage that that Epstein could have possibly killed himself under the noses of jailers. The disgraced financier was taken off suicide watch even though he had reportedly tried to take his own life last month, officials have said.
Epstein’s death came the day after a trove of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about his alleged sex trafficking.
He was arrested July 6 at an airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, as he returned from Paris on a private jet. He was charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking, and faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty. He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.
The indictment in his case showed that he sought out minors, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 through 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at either his Manhattan townhouse or his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, federal prosecutors revealed last month.