Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse says the Department of Justice has “failed” and is demanding that investigations be launched into the apparent suicide of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
“The Department of Justice failed, and today Jeffrey Epstein’s co-conspirators think they might have gotten one last sweetheart deal,” Sasse wrote in an open letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Saturday.
“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.”
Epstein was found unresponsive in his New York jail cell at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed.
He was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan on federal sex trafficking charges.
WATCH: Jeffrey Epstein dies by apparent suicide
In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said the FBI would be investigating his death.
According to an NBC report, two weeks ago Epstein had been found in his jail cell “semiconscious with marks on his neck.”
The report, citing unnamed sources, said Epstein had been placed on suicide watch.
However, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press that Epstein had been taken off suicide watch prior to his death.
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According to a Reuters report, it was not immediately clear why Epstein had been taken off suicide watch, and officials had not responded to requests for comment.
Sasse said given Epstein’s previous apparent suicide attempt, he “should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance.”
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“Obviously, heads must roll,” he wrote.
Sasse said it should have been “abundantly clear” that Epstein would go to “any lengths” to avoid being held accountable for his alleged crimes.
“Being responsible for Epstein’s custody and prosecution, the Department of Justice should not have allowed this to happen,” Sasse wrote. “His death not only deprives his victims of the opportunity to confront him in court and to see him held accountable for his crimes, but also makes it harder to unravel his ring and to hold accountable the many other powerful men who raped and exploited these children.”
Epstein was arrested in July for the alleged sex trafficking of minor girls through his Upper East Side mansion in Palm Beach Florida. He had pleaded not guilty.
Some of the charges are almost two decades old. If convicted, Epstein would have faced up to 45 years in prison.
In 2008, under a deal called a non-prosecution agreement, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.
He served 13 months in a work-release program.
In the letter, Sasse called on Barr to confirm that he would be ordering an investigation the Bureau of Prisons’ mismanagement of Epstein’s incarceration, and another into potential criminal activity surrounding the mismanagement.
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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.”
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 Jessica Vomiero, Kerri Breen and the Associated Press