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Financier Jeffrey Epstein dead in suspected jail cell suicide; FBI to investigate

By
Allen Cone
Jeffrey Epstein, shown in a photo issued on July 25, was found unresponsive in his jail cell on Sunday morning in the Manhattan Correctional Center of a suspected suicide and later pronounced dead. Photo courtesy/New York State Division of Criminal Justice/EPA
Jeffrey Epstein, shown in a photo issued on July 25, was found unresponsive in his jail cell on Sunday morning in the Manhattan Correctional Center of a suspected suicide and later pronounced dead. Photo courtesy/New York State Division of Criminal Justice/EPA

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Convicted financier Jeffrey Epstein died of a suspected suicide after being found unresponsive Saturday morning in his Manhattan Correctional Center cell where he was being held on sex trafficking charges.

After learning of Epstein's death while in federal custody, Attorney General William Barr ordered an investigation by the FBI and inspector general.

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"I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody," Barr said in a statement. "Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. 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."

At approximately 6:30 a.m., Epstein was "found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit from an apparent suicide," the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a news release.

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Staff conducted life-saving measures and he was transported by ambulance to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Around 7:30 a.m., a gurney carrying a man who looked like Epstein was wheeled out of the jail and taken to NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, the New York Post reported.

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Epstein hanged himself while in the solitary confinement, three law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News. NBC reported he was not on suicide watch.

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On July 24, Epstein, 66, was found nearly unconscious in his cell with injuries to his neck and was placed on suicide watch.

Epstein originally was placed in the general population at the facility before he was moved to solitary protective custody because of threats from other inmates.

The 12-story building houses inmates with cases pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. There were 796 male and female inmates in custody there as of Feb. 1, 2017, according to Zoukis Consulting Group.

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"Today's events are disturbing, and we are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein's many victims their day in Court," Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney overseeing that office, said in a statement. "To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment -- which included a conspiracy count -- remains ongoing."

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Because of Epstein's death, criminal charges are dropped though other people involved in the case can be charged. In addition civil cases can continue.

Epstein was being held without bail on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking with girls as young as age 14 in the early 2000s at Epstein's residences in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla. He pleaded not guilty on July 6 and faced 45 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman denied bail on July 18 because he said Epstein is a danger to the community and a flight risk.

Marc Fernich, one of Epstein's attorneys, said the government, the judge and the media all played a role for this "unthinkable tragedy."

"All these actors appear to bear some responsibility for this calamity. All seem to have a share of Mr. Epstein's blood on their hands. All should be ashamed of their behavior," he said in a statement to Fox News. "I call for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Epstein's death. The public needs to know exactly what happened and why -- and how his custodians could have let it occur."

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He served 13 months, including work release, and registered as a sex offender in Florida. Epstein had been accused of running an international sex trafficking operation.

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"The death of Jeffrey Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence," U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat whose district includes Palm Beach, posted on Twitter. "With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform begin its investigation."

On July 12, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned amid increasing scrutiny over his involvement with the plea agreement during his time as a federal prosecutor in South Florida.

"On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice," Lisa Bloom posted on Twitter. "Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate. Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We're just getting started."

She called for administrators of Epstein's estate to freeze all his assets.

"Jeffrey Epstein's jail suicide means one thing and one thing only: consciousness of guilt," Bloom tweeted. "He was charged with only two counts. But he knew. He knew he was guilty, and all his money would not prevent the inevitable conviction. He knew justice was coming and he could not face it."

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Brad Edwards, who also represents some Epstein accusers, said in a statement obtained by NBC News: "The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is both unfortunate and predictable.

"The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused."

On Friday, thousands of pages of documents were unsealed in connection with a defamation case against Epstein. A self-identified victim, Virginia Giuffre, said she was forced to perform sex acts with several high-profile people, including former Maine Sen. George Mitchell and ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, both Democrats.

"I have never met, spoken with or had any contact with Ms. Giuffre," Mitchell said in a statement obtained by CNN.

A spokeswoman for Richardson told CNN that Giuffre's allegation was "completely false."

In the documents, Giuffre denied having sex with President Donald Trump though she was working as a spa attendant at Trump's private resort, Mar-a-Lago, in 2000. Giuffree said she was approached by Epstein's longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell about giving massages to the wealthy investor, whose mansion is near's Trump's property.

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"I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him," Trump told reporters at the White House after Epstein's arrest. "I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. I mean, people in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan."

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