Jailers failed to preserve security video linked to Jeffrey Epstein's 1st suicide attempt: Officials

The millionaire financier died by suicide on Aug. 10.

January 9, 2020, 3:52 PM

Security video purportedly showing the outside of millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's New York jail cell at the time of his attempted suicide in July has been lost, federal prosecutors claim.

The five hours of footage taken by a camera outside of Epstein's cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan between 11 p.m. on July 22 and 4 a.m. on July 23 was mistakenly not preserved, federal prosecutor Geoffrey S. Berman wrote in a letter sent Thursday to U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Karas.

Epstein was discovered unresponsive in his cell and with injuries to his neck in the early morning hours of July 23.

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry, March 28, 2017, and obtained by Reuters, July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services via Reuters

He was taken to a hospital and survived the attempted suicide, only to be found dead from suicide in his MCC cell less than a month later.

Attorneys for Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer charged in a triple slaying, had requested the video, prompting Kraus to ask for an update from prosecutors on the whereabouts of the footage. Tartaglione was sharing a cell with Epstein at the time of the financier's failed suicide attempt.

It's unclear why the video was requested.

"The Government has learned that the MCC inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier within the MCC, and as a result, video from outside the defendant's cell on July 22-23, 2019 (i.e. the requested video) no longer exists," Berman wrote in the letter to Karas, which has been obtained by ABC News.

Epstein, who had been taken off suicide watch just days before he died, was alone in his cell when he allegedly hanged himself with a bed sheet.

An exterior view of the Metropolitan Correctional Center jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead, in New York City, Aug. 10, 2019.
Jeenah Moon/Reuters, FILE

In his letter, Berman wrote that the government was initially informed that the video from July existed and was sent a copy of the purported footage.

"After reviewing the video, it appeared to the Government that the footage contained on the preserved video was for the correct date and time, but captured a different tier than the one where [Epstein's cell] was located because the preserved video did not show corrections officers responding to any of the cells seen on the video," Berman wrote.

Lawyers for MCC told federal prosecutors that while a backup system was in place to preserve all videos taken in the jail's Special Housing Unit, "technical errors" caused the backup system to fail.

"This is the result of cronyism. Director Hawk has work to do to eradicate incompetence. Executive staff are in positions based on cronyism," Joe Rojas, senior official of the Bureau of Prisons officer union, told ABC News in a statement.

Epstein, 66, was being held at the jail without bail as he awaited a trial for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of girls in New York and Florida.

Two correctional officers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, who were supposed to be watching Epstein at the time he died by suicide, were charged in November with "making false records and conspiring to make false records and to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Metropolitan Correctional Center," according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

Noel and Thomas have pleaded not guilty and have been released on $100,000 bond each.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.

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