Epstein, 66, was found unconscious in his cell at the fortress-like Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday at 6:30 a.m. He was promptly rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead.
The disgraced financier had been awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges more than a decade after a receiving an enormously lenient sentence on related offenses. He faced accusations from dozens of women, according to prosecutors.
After observers questioned why such a high-profile inmate was left unmonitored, the FBI released a statement on Saturday calling Epstein’s death an “apparent suicide.”
This latest report from the medical examiner came after The Washington Post reported that officials had found several broken bones in Epstein’s neck, which prompted even more questions.
Attorney General William Barr said in a searing statement that there had been “serious irregularities” in Epstein’s detention and asked the Inspector General to open an investigation. Other investigations, conducted by the FBI and the New York Medical Examiner’s office, are also underway.
Epstein’s lawyers vowed to independently investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, which they blamed on MCC, and threatened legal action to view any video that may exist.
Epstein’s “safety was the responsibility of the MCC. It is indisputable that authorities violated their own protocols,” the attorneys said.
While jail suicides are not uncommon, the fallout from Epstein’s death has led to bipartisan demand in Washington for answers.
The high-security MCC is known to take in high-profile inmates, having held the likes of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and scammer Bernard Madoff.
News outlets, however, reported several unusual factors that might have created the conditions in which the financier was able to kill himself. The two guards on duty at the time had falsified logs to make it appear as if they had checked on the inmate when they had actually fallen asleep, according to The Associated Press and The New York Times. One of the guards was a temporary worker brought in due to staffing shortages. Both have been placed on leave, and the warden reassigned.
But even those explanations, if true, have not been enough to allay suspicions by prominent figures across media and politics that some kind of conspiracy resulted in the financier’s death, considering that he had frequently socialized with powerful men, including former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew. Both men ― along with numerous other formidable figures ― deny any misconduct during the times they met with Epstein at his various properties in Manhattan, Palm Beach, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he owned two private islands.
Despite the theories surrounding Epstein’s death, jail suicides are a common occurrence.
For a year following Sandra Bland’s death in jail after a Texas traffic stop in 2015, HuffPost gathered data on more than 800 people who died in jail, 31% of which were deaths by suicide or an apparent suicide. The data also suggested that imprisoned defendants who were facing sex crime charges or were registered as sex offenders were more likely to die by suicide.
Epstein’s death came just one day after more than 2,000 documents were unsealed, detailing a disturbing picture of the international sex trafficking operation he has been accused of running alongside British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who has not been charged with a crime.
While the criminal case against Epstein is now over, prosecutors say they will continue to investigate and potentially charge any co-conspirators. Accusers are also able to bring legal action against Epstein’s substantial estate.
Although his claim to be a billionaire was unproved before his death, Epstein was worth many millions. It remains unclear how he earned it all.
This article has been updated with a statement from Epstein’s lawyers.
Carla Herreria contributed to this report.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.