Two jail guards will have to face trial after they were accused of failing to make required checks on Jeffrey Epstein the morning he died. Their defense argue that they’re being dealt all the blame when a larger systematic issue played a part in Epstein’s death.
Epstein was awaiting trial back in August for charges he sexually abused teenage girls at his Manhattan mansion and a Florida home. However, on August 10, Epstein was found dead in his cell with the New York City medical examiner ruling his death a suicide.
According to Associated Press, the two guards facing trial, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were arrested last week and pleaded not guilty to lying on prison records to make it seem as though they had carried out their required checks on Epstein before he was found dead. Federal authorities document in court papers that Noel and Thomas appeared to sleep for two hours, browsed the Internet and failed to make required checks of cells every 30 minutes during an eight-hour timeframe when Epstein’s cell 15 feet from the guards went unchecked.
Noel and Thomas are set to start their trial on April 20, according to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski explained that evidence will involve hundreds of hours of jailhouse video recordings.
Although the guards, who are suspended without pay, are being accused of negligence, their lawyers argue that they’re being blamed for systematic issues characterizing the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Attorney Jason Foy, representing Noel, revealed that the lawyers will most likely seek information beyond evidence that is turned over to them by prosecutors. “I believe there are outside circumstances that are driving this prosecution,” he said.
Montel Figgins, who’s representing Thomas, said that the guards are scapegoats for many failings in a troubled federal lockup. “Absolutely,” Figgins proclaimed when asked whether “scapegoat” was an accurate word to use. “Only two people charged? For this to happen, a lot had to fail.”
As an example, Figgins asked who decided that Epstein’s cellmate should be removed from his cell the day before his passing. Prison psychologists had come to the conclusion that Epstein should not be by himself in a cell after he was removed from suicide watch after he was found injured in his cell back in July.
“The system had a lot of problems. Supervision, staffing,” Figgins said.
The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for January 30.