Surveillance footage of deceased money manager Jeffrey Epstein’s first reported suicide attempt in a New York jail cell has been erased, federal prosecutors confirmed to HuffPost on Thursday after conflicting reports of the video’s status circulated last month.
The failure to preserve the tape at Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-security federal building in lower Manhattan, represents the latest in a series of alarming blunders surrounding Epstein, who died by suicide in August.
The former financier had been awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges after a wave of allegations about his decades of sexual abuse led to public outrage.
In court documents, prosecutors state that prison officials mistakenly preserved video “from the wrong tier” of the facility and, as a result, video from outside Epstein’s cell on July 22-23 “no longer exists.” Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at around 1:30 a.m. on July 23 and placed on suicide watch for a brief period. He was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.
The filing is part of a case involving Epstein’s former cellmate, Nicholas Tartaglione, who says he helped save Epstein’s life that July night.
Tartaglione’s attorneys put in a request to preserve the surveillance tape just two days after the incident. MCC officials told prosecutors that, at the time, they looked up Tartaglione’s cell number in the facility’s computer system and correctly preserved the footage from outside that cell.
As it turned out, however, they had the wrong one.
Prosecutors say they only realized a mistake had been made last week after obtaining and reviewing a copy of the video that had been preserved.
An FBI analysis of MCC’s video backup system determined the actual video of Epstein’s cell “no longer exists on the backup system and has not since at least August 2019 as a result of technical errors.”
So far, two MCC employees have been charged in Epstein’s death for failing to physically check up on him and then lying to say they did, according to prosecutors.
Although the criminal case against Epstein ended with his death, prosecutors say they are continuing to work with his accusers and could still file charges against his accomplices. Dozens of the women have come forward to say Epstein sexually abused them when they were young and underage.