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Prison guards placed on leave over Epstein death

BBC News logo BBC News 13/08/2019

Two prison guards have been suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned at the New York City jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of suspected suicide.

It comes after the FBI opened an investigation into the death of Epstein, who was facing prosecution for sex trafficking when he was found dead.

The suspension, ordered by Attorney General William Barr, came a day after he criticised the jail's "failure".

The circumstance surrounding the financier's death has raised questions.

It remains unclear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch after an attempted suicide last month. He also was supposed to have been checked in on by a guard every 30 minutes.

Before his downfall, Epstein had previously counted many prominent rich and powerful people, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as friends.

What did the Department of Justice say?

In a statement, Mr Barr "directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign" warden Lamine N'Diaye to a regional office, pending a full investigation.

a close up of a mans face: Epstein faced up to 45 years in jail if convicted © Reuters Epstein faced up to 45 years in jail if convicted

Two other staff members who were assigned to Epsteins' unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) have also been placed on leave.

"Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant," the statement added.

On Tuesday, a union official for workers at the jail told the Washington Post that one of the guards on Epstein's unit on Saturday - when he died - was not a regular correctional officer, but rather another form of prison employee who was directed to operate as a guard due to staffing shortages.

What has Trump said?

President Donald Trump told reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday: "I want a full investigation, and that's what I absolutely am demanding.

"That's what our attorney general, our great attorney general, is doing. He's doing a full investigation."

He also defended his decision to retweet conspiracy theory that suggested that the Clinton family had Epstein killed.

"He's a very highly respected conservative pundit," Mr Trump said of comedian Terrence K Williams, who wrote the original post.

"He's a big Trump fan. And that was a retweet. That wasn't from me… So I think I was fine."

The order comes one day after Mr Barr said he was "frankly angry to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner."

He added: "We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability."

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