Two federal correctional employees accused of neglecting their duties the night Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 have reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to resolve the criminal charges against them without jail time, prosecutors said Friday.
In a letter to the federal judge overseeing the case, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office said the government had concluded that “the interests of justice would be best served by deferring prosecution” of Tova Noel and Michael Thomas. Under the agreement, Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas would admit completing false records but would be spared a criminal conviction.
Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas would have to cooperate with a Justice Department review into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Epstein’s death. The judge still has to approve the agreement, which also would mandate 100 hours of community service.
Lawyers for Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Thomas’s lawyer argued when his client was charged that prosecutors should focus their efforts instead on fixing the prison system.
Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas were charged in November 2019 with conspiracy and multiple counts of records falsification in connection with the death of Mr. Epstein weeks after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges. Both pleaded not guilty and had rejected a plea deal offered in the weeks before their indictment.
The indictment detailed lapses in security at the Manhattan jail the night of Mr. Epstein’s death. By the time Mr. Thomas and Ms. Noel found Mr. Epstein’s body, with a noose around his neck, in his cell at around 6:30 a.m. on August 10, 2019, at least eight hours had passed since anybody had conducted a routine inmate check in the secure-housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan, prosecutors alleged.
Instead of checking on Mr. Epstein throughout the night, as they were supposed to do, Ms. Noel and Mr. Thomas spent most of the overnight shift in a common space just 15 feet from Mr. Epstein’s cell, shopping online and sometimes sleeping, prosecutors alleged. The guards filled out forms falsely saying they had conducted the regular checks.
The city medical examiner’s office ruled Mr. Epstein’s death a suicide. The case exposed a history of staffing shortages and overworked guards within the federal Bureau of Prisons, prompting the ouster of the bureau’s acting chief and an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Write to Rebecca Davis O’Brien at Rebecca.OBrien@wsj.com
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Source: WSJ – US News