The Jeffrey Epstein case has been one of the most sensational high profile cases in recent times. This was fueled in no small part by his apparent friendships and close associations with well-known celebrities, academics, politicians, British royalty, and even presidents.
His proximity to power has given rise to speculation about the circumstances surrounding his death, with some alleging foul play as opposed to suicide while awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges.
The controversy surrounding the Jeffrey Epstein death centers on the failure of the two prison guards on duty at the time, to ensure that he stayed alive to answer for his alleged crimes. This article dives deep into the role the prison guards played in the financier’s suicide and what the road ahead has in store for them.
The Night of Epstein’s Death
On the night that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging, Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41 were the two prison guards on duty. He was on suicide watch after his first attempt at killing himself some two weeks prior when he was found semi-conscious in his cell with injuries on his neck.
The possibility of this being an assault was ruled out with sources from the prison alluding to the fact that he may have tried to hang himself while another source claims that he may have staged the suicide in an attempt to get transferred to a different facility.
However, it later emerged that he had been taken off suicide watch after a face-to-face evaluation by a doctoral-level psychologist who determined that it was not necessary, as he didn’t exhibit any behavioral symptoms that are characteristic of people who individuals who are at risk of harming themselves.
The Jeffrey Epstein guards allegedly failed to perform safety checks on the accused child trafficker for the eight hours leading up to his death. He was being held with other inmates at a special housing unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
According to reports, the two had been asleep for approximately two hours during the time they were supposed to be checking in on Epstein. It also emerged that they had also been browsing the internet catching up on sports news and doing some online shopping.
They further went ahead to sign multiple false certifications indicating that they had carried out the obligatory inmate headcounts. This was in an effort to conceal their gross failure to carry out their duties.
Security cameras further revealed that for the period between 10.30 p.m. and 6.30 a.m., no one had been to the wing where the Jeffrey Epstein prison cell was, only discovering that the financier was dead when they went in to take him his breakfast.
Noel and Thomas became the first two individuals to face an indictment of the death of the disgraced financier. Given their failure to perform their duty of ensuring the safety and security of all federal inmates at the correction facility, they were arraigned in a Manhattan court to answer to charges leveled against them.
Both guards were charged with a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, Noel was charged with four counts of falsifying records while Thomas was charged with two counts of the same offense. They both pleaded “not guilty” to all charges.
The controversy surrounding Epstein’s death has been marred with various conspiracy theories alluding to the fact that his death could have resulted from foul play and not suicide.
Not only did it seem bizarre that he was left unsupervised for such long periods as was witnessed in the Epstein prison video, but indictment records reveal that just a day before his death, his cellmate was transferred out in what was considered a “routine transfer”. Records show that no new cellmate was assigned to his cell as would be the norm during such procedures.
It is no secret that Epstein rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty with names like Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and many others in the now-famous Epstein black book. Perhaps one (or some) of them may have wanted to eliminate the risk Epstein posed to their public image if he spilled the secrets he had on them.
What’s more, according to the findings of an independent forensic pathologist hired by the Jeffrey Epstein family, the deceased had broken bones and torn cartilage in his neck, which according to them, points to homicide.
Nonetheless, conspiracy theories aside, the New York City Medical Examiner ruled his death a suicide by hanging putting to rest any conspiracies that surrounding his death.
Systemic Failures in the Prison System
Manhattan federal prosecutors have offered both Noel and Thomas plea deals by they have been unable to reach an agreement. According to Thomas’ lawyer, the guard asserts that he is being used as a scapegoat to cover up what he claims to be “systemic failures” in the prison bureau that stems from staff shortages and gross mismanagement.
On the fateful night of Epstein’s death, Noel had been slotted to work a grueling 16-hour double shift while Thomas had already completed several hours of overtime that same week. It remains unclear whether their overtime shifts were mandatory.
Of the two of them, one was responsible for keeping an eye on Epstein while the other was not a detention guard but had instead been temporarily assigned to that post.
Controversy In Life and In Death
What is clear is that while Epstein’s death may have put an end to the criminal charges he was facing, the controversy that plagued him during his life continues even in his death. It, however, sheds a bright light on some of the gaps that need to be filled in the prison system to avoid both convicted criminals as well as those awaiting conviction from slipping through the cracks to take the easy way out of paying for their crimes.
For now, both Noel and Thomas could be facing prison time for their failure to perform their duties. Whether they are entirely to blame is a discussion to be had another day.