WASHINGTON (AP) - The two Bureau of Prisons workers tasked with guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed himself in a New York jail have admitted they falsified records, but they will skirt any time behind bars under a deal with federal prosecutors, authorities said Friday.
The prison workers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were accused of sleeping and browsing the internet instead of monitoring Epstein the night he took his own life in August 2019.
They were charged with lying on prison records to make it seem as though they had made required checks on the financier before he was found in his cell Aug. 10. New York City’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.
As part of the deal with prosecutors, they will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and will serve no time behind bars, according to a letter from federal prosecutors that was filed in court papers Friday. Noel and Thomas would instead be subjected to supervised release, would be required to complete 100 hours of community service and would be required to fully cooperate with an ongoing probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general, it says.
The two have "admitted that they ‘willfully and knowingly completed materially false count and round slips regarding required counts and rounds’" in the housing unit where Epstein was being held, the letter says.
The deal would need to be approved by a judge, which could come as soon as next week.
Prosecutors alleged that Noel and Thomas sat at their desks just 15 feet from Epstein’s cell, shopped online for furniture and motorcycles, and walked around the unit’s common area instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes.
During one two-hour period, both appeared to have been asleep, according to the indictment filed against them.
Epstein’s death was a major embarrassment for the federal Bureau of Prisons and highlighted major security and staffing issues within the agency. It 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.