Jeffrey Epstein dies by apparent suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges
Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide in his Manhattan jail cell overnight, the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed.
Epstein was facing federal sex trafficking charges, and was found two weeks ago in his New York City jail cell with injuries to his neck.
The disgraced financier was found at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
According to a statement from the Federal Bureau of prisons, after Epstein was discovered, “life saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff.”
WATCH: Jeffrey Epstein found dead in apparent suicide, investigation ongoing on his charges
“Mr. Epstein was transported by EMS to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff,” the statement read.
A former warden told the Associated Press that Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in jail represents a “shocking failure of the system.”
Cameron Lindsay, who ran three federal lockups, says Epstein should have been under constant supervision.
A person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press that Epstein had been taken off suicide watch before his death.
An unnamed source told Reuters that at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) in Manhattan – where Epstein was being held — two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed overnight.
WATCH: Joe Biden says ‘there must have been something missed’ after Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide
The source said that every 15 minutes guards are required to make another check on prisoners who are on suicide watch.
According to the Reuters report, it was not immediately clear why Epstein had been taken off suicide watch, and officials had not responded to requests for comment.
Epstein, who had pleaded not-guilty, was arrested on July 6 for alleged sex trafficking of minor girls through his Upper East Side mansion in Palm Beach Florida. Some of the charges are almost 2 decades old. He faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
The charges were announced more than a decade after Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida. He was being held in the MCC while he appealed a district judge’s refusal to let him live under 24-hour guard in his home on the Upper East Side.
The multi-millionaire was being held without bail as he awaited his trial.
There are currently 763 male offenders housed in the MCC.
Epstein’s death is likely to raise questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of high-profile inmates. In October, Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia where he had just been transferred.
Federal authorities have said that the FBI is investigating the “apparent suicide” to determine whether proper procedures were followed to ensure the safety of the prisoners overnight.
As news of Epstein’s death broke, several U.S. lawmakers reacted on social media.
Florida Rep. Lois Frankel tweeted Saturday that Epstein’s death “does not end the need for justice for his victims,” and called for a congressional investigation.
“With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform begin its investigation,” she wrote.
WATCH: Lawyer representing victims says civil case against Jeffrey Epstein’s estate will continue
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also took to Twitter.
“We need answers,” she wrote. “Lots of them.”
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, former U.S. vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden said “there must have been something missed.”
“I think we have to make it clear that notwithstanding the fact that [Epstein] may have been not a very admirable guy, that when prisons say they know someone is a suicide risk, they should be monitored very closely,” Biden said.
In a statement issued Saturday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he was “appalled” to learn that Epstein was found dead, and announced an additional investigation would be opened.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” the statement reads. “In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
In a letter addressed to Barr on Saturday, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said the Department of Justice had “failed.”
WATCH: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate says it’d have been good for Epstein to face justice
“The Department of Justice failed, and today Jeffrey Epstein’s co-conspirators think they might have gotten one last sweetheart deal,” Sasse wrote. “Every single person in the Justice Department – from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer – knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him.”
Sasse said given Epstein’s previous apparent suicide attempt, he “should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance.”
“Obviously, heads must roll,” he wrote.
Criticism of the plea deal Epstein reached with the U.S. attorney’s office in 2007, then led by Alexander Acosta, threw his alleged actions back into the spotlight. The non-prosecution agreement allowed the hedge fund manager to avoid federal charges despite many claims that he’d engaged in a broad pattern of sexual misconduct.
He served just 13 months in jail of an 18-month sentence in Florida.
Federal prosecutors in New York reopened the probe after investigative reporting by The Miami Herald stirred outrage over that plea bargain.
His lawyers maintained that the new charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York were improper, claiming that he hadn’t had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his 13-month sentence in Florida.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.