Jeffrey Epstein's jail guards to avoid prison in agreement with prosecutors

Epstein is seen (left) in a photo with Ghislaine Maxwell, as charges are announced against Maxwell in July 2020. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Two Manhattan jail guards who were on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein killed himself admitted to falsifying records but would avoid prison under an agreement with US prosecutors to resolve criminal charges.

Tova Noel and Michael Thomas had been accused of falling asleep and surfing the Internet when they should have been monitoring Epstein on Aug 10, 2019, when the financier and registered sex offender was found hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in downtown Manhattan.

Under a deferred prosecution agreement disclosed late on Friday (May 21), Noel and Thomas admitted to having "willfully and knowingly" filled out documents claiming they had conducted regular checks in the housing unit where Epstein was being held.

Both would serve six months of supervised release, complete 100 hours of community service, and cooperate with a probe by the US Department of Justice's inspector-general, including the circumstances surrounding Epstein's death.

Prosecutors said "the interests of justice will be best served" by the agreement, which requires a judge's approval, perhaps as soon as May 25.

Lawyers for Noel and Thomas did not immediately respond on Saturday to requests for comment.

Both defendants were charged in November 2019 and have been free on bail.

Epstein's death at age 66 was called a suicide by New York City's top medical examiner.

It angered then-Attorney General William Barr, and prompted a management overhaul at the Manhattan jail.

Prosecutors have said that during Epstein's final hours, Noel shopped online for furniture, Thomas looked up sports news and motorcycle sales, and both appeared to have taken naps.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and critic of the government's handling of the Epstein case, said the public deserves an accounting of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' failures.

"Epstein's victims have been failed at every single turn," Sasse said in a statement. "One hundred hours of community service is a joke-this isn't traffic court."

Prior to his death, Epstein had pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges.

The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime Epstein associate, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and other charges that she procured underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.

Her trial is slated to begin in November. Maxwell's lawyers have complained that guards in her Brooklyn jail regularly shine flashlights into her cell at night, ostensibly to ensure her safety. The lawyers have said Maxwell is not a suicide risk and wants her day in court.

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