The jail guards who were there on the night disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein purportedly killed himself have said they are being scapegoated for the broken system that was in place at the Manhattan Correctional Center.
Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41, appeared briefly before Judge Analisa Torres in New York on Monday, according to the New York Post.
“Based on our view of the case, I believe there are outside circumstances that are impacting this prosecution,” Noel’s attorney, Jason Foy, said in court.
Thomas’s lawyer, Montell Figgins, concurred with Foy’s claim and told Torres that systemic problems exist at the Bureau of Prisons.
“One of the issues here is going to be conditions, supervisions, and the policies updated and advanced by the Bureau of Prisons,” Figgins said.
When asked by the Post about whether his client is a scapegoat, Figgins said, “Absolutely.”
The two guards are accused of failing to check up on Epstein, a multi-millionaire convicted sex trafficker with friends in high places, every 30 minutes, which is required. They also allegedly fabricated documents claiming they had done so.
Court documents said that the two took naps and browsed the internet instead of checking on Epstein’s cell. He was just 15 feet away from them, the Post reported.
“During the night, instead of completing the required counts and rounds, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, the defendants, were seated at the correctional officers’ desk in the SHU common area (…approximately 15 feet from Epstein’s cell), used the computers, and moved around the SHU common area,” a grand jury and prosecutors alleged. “For a period of approximately two hours, Noel and Thomas sat at their desks without moving, and appeared to have been asleep.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski said evidence against the two will include hundreds of hours of jailhouse video recordings, The Associated Press reported.
The pair later found Epstein unresponsive in his cell at 6:30 a.m.
Meanwhile, Noel “did not make any efforts to frustrate the Government’s investigation” following the wealthy financier’s jailhouse suicide, Foy told the New York Post last week.
“In fact, Ms. Noel remains available to fully and truthfully cooperate with the Inspector General’s investigation, which is also geared toward uncovering the many problems that existed from the commencement of her employment [and] which continue to plague the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” Foy stated.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office said it was suicide by hanging, but some experts have disagreed, fueling speculation that he was murdered.
Several weeks ago, a pathologist hired by Jeffrey Epstein’s brother, Mark Epstein, fueled more theories after saying neck fractures seen during the autopsy were more consistent with homicide than of suicide, what the New York City Medical Examiner’s office declared days after his death.
Epstein was jailed in July without bail on new sex trafficking charges. He was convicted of similar counts in 2008.