August 11, 2019 9:06 pm
Updated: August 11, 2019 11:06 pm

Epstein’s prison guards worked extreme overtime shifts morning of his death: Source

WATCH ABOVE: Jeffrey Epstein's accusers wait for answers

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Guards on Jeffrey Epstein‘s unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail’s operations told The Associated Press.

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The person said that the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s (MCC) Special Housing Unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

The jail staff failed to follow protocols leading up to Epstein’s death, according to a report from The New York Times, deepening the fallout from what led to the highly connected financier’s apparent suicide.

READ MORE: ‘Heads must roll’: U.S. senator calls on DOJ to investigate after Epstein’s apparent suicide

Epstein should have been checked on by guards in his cell every 30 minutes, but that didn’t happen the night before his apparent suicide, a law enforcement official told the Times.

The Times spoke to the official on the condition of anonymity. The Associated Press has not independently confirmed the information.

According to an ABC News report, unnamed sources told the outlet that in recent weeks, the correctional officers’ union has complained of under-staffing. Those complaints are now part of the investigation into whether the 30 minute checks were, in fact, happening.

A source familiar with conditions at MCC told ABC that recently, BOP had to bring in staff to the MCC from other facilities due to understaffing at the prison.

The source told ABC the agency even went so far to list the facility as “hard to fill.”

WATCH: Lawyer representing victims says civil case against Jeffrey Epstein’s estate will continue

A law enforcement source also told the Times he was alone in his cell early Saturday after his cellmate was transferred. An official with knowledge of the investigation told the paper that the Justice Department was told Epstein would have a cellmate and be monitored by a guard every 30 minutes.

The mystery surrounding how he was able to kill himself in jail comes as investigators have been digging into allegations of sexual abuse and conspiracy against Epstein. An additional federal investigation was launched Saturday after the Federal Bureau of Prison said Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at a high-security jail in Manhattan. He was later pronounced dead from an apparent suicide, the BOP said.

READ MORE: Skepticism, conspiracy theories swirl following Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide

New York City’s chief medical examiner released a statement Sunday evening saying an autopsy has been performed on Epstein, but that more information is needed before a cause of death determination is made.

Dr. Barbara Sampson said a city medical examiner performed the autopsy Sunday while a private pathologist observed the examination at the request of Epstein’s representatives.

The private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, was the city’s chief medical examiner in the late 1970s and has been called as an expert witness in high-profile cases including by the defence at O.J. Simpson’s 1994 murder trial.

WATCH: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate says it’d have been good for Epstein to face justice

Sampson said having a private pathologist observe an autopsy is a routine practice.

Epstein’s abrupt death cuts short a criminal prosecution that could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents , though prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found a little over two weeks ago with bruising on his neck, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly. But he was taken off the watch at the end of July and therefore wasn’t on it at the time of his death, the person said.

READ MORE: Trump retweets baseless conspiracies about Epstein death

Attorney General William Barr, calling for an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, said he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death while in federal custody.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.

Epstein, 66, had been denied bail and faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

WATCH: Jeffrey Epstein found dead in apparent suicide, investigation ongoing on his charges

The federal investigation into the allegations remains ongoing, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. He noted in a statement Saturday that the indictment against Epstein includes a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could face charges in the case.

Epstein’s death raises questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of such high-profile inmates. In October, Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia where had just been transferred.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Saturday in a scathing letter to Barr that “heads must roll” after the incident.

READ MORE: Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide is part of a larger problem in American jails: experts

“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 wrote.

Epstein’s removal from suicide watch would have been approved by both the warden of the jail and the facility’s chief psychologist, said Jack Donson, a former prison official who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than two decades.

On Friday, more than 2,000 pages of documents were released related to a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers. The records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of a 2016 deposition of Epstein in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

WATCH: Jeffrey Epstein dies by apparent suicide in prison

Giuffre, in an interview with The New York Times , said she’s grateful Epstein will never harm anyone again, but is angry that there would be no chance to see him answer for his conduct.

“We’ve worked so hard to get here, and he stole that from us, too,” she told the newspaper.

READ MORE: Jeffrey Epstein dies by apparent suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges

Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s attorney, said Epstein’s suicide less than 24 hours after the documents were unsealed “is no coincidence.” McCawley urged authorities to continue their investigation, focusing on Epstein’s associates who she said “participated and facilitated Epstein’s horrifying sex trafficking scheme.”

Epstein’s arrest drew national attention, particularly focusing on a deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.

Federal prosecutors in New York reopened the probe after investigative reporting by The Miami Herald stirred outrage over that plea bargain.

WATCH: Gloria Allred alleges there are ‘a number of’ victims in Jeffrey Epstein case

His lawyers maintained that the new charges in New York were covered by the 2008 plea deal and that Epstein hadn’t had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his 13-month sentence in Florida.

Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit. He socialized with princes and presidents, and lived on a 100-acre private Caribbean island and one of the biggest mansions in New York.

-With files from Global News

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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