World / Crime & Legal

Jeffrey Epstein accuser sues amid report prison guards were 'asleep' when he died and falsified records

AFP-JIJI

An alleged victim of pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein sued for damages Wednesday as reports claimed his guards were asleep before the disgraced tycoon died from an apparent suicide in prison.

Two employees of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York failed to check on Epstein for three hours and then falsified prison logs to cover up their error, the New York Times reported.

The staff members were meant to be inspecting Epstein’s cell every 30 minutes but dozed off, several unnamed law enforcement and prison officials familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

The revelations came a day after the warden of the high-security facility was temporarily reassigned and two guards put on administrative leave by the Bureau of Prisons, pending an investigation.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell on Saturday morning. The FBI and Justice Department are probing how he managed to apparently take his own life just weeks after an earlier reported suicide attempt.

U.S. newspapers reported that he had apparently been taken off suicide watch and left without a cellmate, against protocol, while the guards were working overtime due to major staff shortages at the jail.

The multimillionaire, who hobnobbed with numerous politicians and celebrities over the years, was awaiting trial charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

His death came a day after a court released documents in which one of his alleged victims said Epstein used her as a “sex slave” and that she was forced to have sex with well-known politicians and businessmen.

Another woman, who says she was raped by Epstein as a teenager, sued his estate and former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell under a New York law that came into effect on Wednesday.

Jennifer Araoz wrote a column in the New York Times saying she was filing a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act against Epstein, British-born socialite Maxwell and other accomplices.

Maxwell’s recent whereabouts had been unknown but Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported Wednesday that she had been living in a mansion in Manchester-by-the-sea in Massachusetts.

Araoz, now 32, filed the lawsuit in a state court in Manhattan, according to U.S. media. The New York Post said the accomplices were three unidentified women.

“I’m angry he won’t have to personally answer to me in the court of law. But my quest for justice is just getting started,” she wrote in the New York Times.

The new law extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sex abuse and is expected to trigger a wave of cases against Epstein and accused abusers in separate cases.

Even though Epstein’s death ended his criminal prosecution, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has said prosecutors would pursue cases against anyone else involved in his alleged crimes.

FBI agents raided Epstein’s private Caribbean island on Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday.

According to prosecutors he sexually exploited dozens of underage teens, some as young as 14, at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

He denied the charges but faced up to 45 years in jail if found guilty.

Epstein was convicted in Florida in 2008 of paying young girls for massages but served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal struck with the then state prosecutor.