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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Approves Cooperation Deal for Epstein Guards Who Were On Duty but Not Watchful

So long as they cooperate with a federal probe into the circumstances surrounding Jeffrey Epstein's suicide, two prison staffers who falsified their records about watching the convicted sex offender in his cell will face no jail time.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Two Bureau of Prisons employees who covered up their failure to check on Jeffrey Epstein before the high-profile inmate was found dead in his cell in August 2019 will each serve 100 hours of community service under deferred prosecution agreements approved in court Tuesday afternoon.

Epstein was found dead in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 10, one month after his arrest on sex-trafficking charges. To keep better tabs on the politically connected financier, the government had been keeping Epstein in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Officially, the New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled Epstein's death as suicide by hanging

Three months later, federal prosecutors brought charges against two MCC guards, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, alleging they were browsing the internet from their desk when they were supposed to be performing their rounds on the night of Epstein’s death in "the SHU," short for special housing unit. 

Noel was also charged with five counts of making false records, while Thomas, a materials handler who occasionally worked overtime shifts, was charged with three counts of making false records — each of which carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

According to the indictment, Noel allegedly filled out more than 75 separate 30-minute round entries falsely affirming that she and Thomas had completed rounds every 30 minutes checking that each inmate was alive and accounted for in his cell.

During a 15-minute videoconference on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres granted two deferred prosecution agreements to Noel and Thomas, pursuant to which they each admitted that they “willfully and knowingly completed materially false count and round slips regarding required counts and rounds in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 9, 2019 and August 10, 2019.”

Pursuant to their agreement with federal prosecutors, the two Bureau of Prisons employees will serve no jail and instead will cooperate with an ongoing probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general by providing truthful information related to their employment by the Bureau of Prisons, including about the events and circumstances described in the indictment.

Noel and Thomas will each complete 100 hours of community service, “preferably in an area related to the criminal justice system,” according to the terms of their deferred prosecution agreements.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Roos confirmed at the videoconference on Tuesday that the government agrees to dismiss the criminal indictments after six-month period of pretrial supervision and the completion of their cooperation with investigators.

proposal of the deferred prosecution agreements was made public Friday evening.

“Securing a resolution that eliminates both imprisonment and a criminal conviction is the favorable outcome that Ms. Noel prayed for since her arrest,” Noel’s attorney Jason Foy wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Ms. Noel is grateful that the government reconsidered its decision to prosecute her. This agreement will allow the administrative process set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between her union and the Bureau of Prisons to appropriately address any shortcomings in the execution of her duties and responsibilities,” Foy added.

The government’s 2019 indictment said video surveillance shows the guards did not perform inmate counts on the night of Aug. 9 or the following morning, but they did fill out paperwork falsely affirming that that they conducted the required checks.

The indictment quoted Thomas telling his supervisor after Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell, “We messed up,” and “I messed up, she’s not to blame, we didn’t do any rounds.”

Prior to Epstein’s death, the last detainee suicide at the MCC occurred in 2006, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson told Courthouse News.

“This case should sound the alarm that the criminal justice system is in disrepair in an array of areas that must be addressed,” Thomas’ attorney, Montell Figgins wrote in a statement Tuesday.

“There is no doubt that there are rampant problems in our nations prison system that must be fixed to make our country better for all of its citizens,” the Newark-based lawyer said.

In 2019, Figgins said Thomas and Noel had been suspended from the Bureau of Prisons without pay after their arrest.

The firing of an MCC employee would have to be processed by their union Council of Prison Locals C-33, a representative council within the American Federation of Government Employees.

During an unrelated criminal sentencing last month, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon lambasted both the MCC in Manhattan and the MDC facility in Brooklyn, where Epstein’s alleged recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell is detained, as “run by morons” with a revolving door of leadership.

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Categories / Criminal, Employment, Government

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