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Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed himself were charged Tuesday with falsifying prison records.
A grand jury indictment made public Tuesday accused guards Toval Noel and Michael Thomas of neglecting their duties by failing to perform checks on Epstein every half hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to show they had.
The charges against the officers are the first in connection with the wealthy financiers death in August at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.
The citys medical examiner ruled Epstein's death a suicide.
A message left with union officials representing the guards wasn't immediately returned.
Epsteins death while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused underage girls was a major embarrassment for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
The cell where he died was in a high-security unit, famous for having held terrorists and drug cartel kingpins. Epsteins death, though, revealed the jail was suffering from problems including chronic staffing shortages that lead to mandatory overtime for guards day after day and other staff being pressed into service as correctional officers.
Attorney General William Barr has said investigators found "serious irregularities" at the jail and the FBI's investigation had been slowed because some witnesses were uncooperative.
Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on the floor of his cell with a bruised neck. Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail say Epstein was taken off the watch after about a week, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.
Investigators believe those checks weren't done for several hours before Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck, another person familiar with the matter told AP. That person likewise spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.
Prosecutors had wanted the guards to admit they falsified the prison records as part of a plea offer that they rejected, according to people familiar with the matter. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to publicly discuss the investigation.
Federal prosecutors had subpoenaed up to 20 staff members at the jail in August. The case was a top priority for the Justice Department. Both Barr and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen received regular updates.
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