How the Bureau of Prisons managed media perceptions around billionaire’s death — Analysis
The Detail has obtained documents from the US Bureau of Prison that were released under Freedom of Information law. They reveal the difficulties US Bureau of Prison staff had in proving Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. They were simultaneously using this opportunity to wage an aggressive PR campaign, flood the media with false stories about Epstein’s death and continue to do so to this day.
Metropolitan Correctional Center guards discovered Epstein unconscious in his cell. He was being held on charges of child sex traficking. The guards rushed him to hospital and pronounced his death at 6:39 a.m.
The declassified records analyzed by The Detail show that, for reasons unclear, it wasn’t until almost an hour-and-a-half later that BoP officials informed the Department of Justice (DOJ) that Epstein had been taken to hospital after another apparent suicide attempt. An internal email, from 7:52am, notes receipt of the grave news – “no other information was provided” though, and the BoP pledged to “update us as more info becomes available.”Naturally, he had already passed away.
Three hours passed and Justice officers were still receiving their orders. “increasingly frantic calls” from Epstein’s lawyers, as they were “seeing information in the press” that they and the DOJ itself weren’t party to.
“It is essential that we know the most basic details such as the time and the cause of death as quickly as possible. It has now been hours since this was reported publicly,”A DOJ official appealed to prison officers in an email. “We would appreciate your guidance on when and how we might expect to be able to either receive a written summary of these basic facts, or if we could have an informal call so that we may get the information we need to pass to our counsel. It is extraordinarily frustrating to have to tell them that we have less information than the press.”
Infuriated by the Justice Department’s inexplicable behavior, one Justice Department official declared that it was “frankly unbelievable” that public press releases were being issued related to Epstein’s death containing information that wasn’t being shared privately, especially given US marshals were unable to reach the BoP. This wall of silence could be due to staffers who spent so much time responding to media inquiries.
Amongst the files are a slew of comments from the major news media outlets such as TMZ and the Daily Beast. Details such as Epstein being watched, whether Epstein was in his own cell and how he hanged himself, were all ignored. The Correctional Center and BoP began to push the claim that Epstein had killed himself, even though no internal or external investigations had been conducted.
The FBI later released official statements that suggested this to the media. “incident” – though, oddly, no mention of the Bureau’s probe is made in a similar statement issued to Epstein’s representatives. What came of this isn’t clear, indeed it’s a facet rather forgotten today – despite in November 2019 it being widely reported that the FBI had grounds to consider potential “criminal enterprise” in Epstein’s death.
While the world’s media began running as one with the suicide story, a statement was also issued to New York courts and senior judges, which states rightly and clearly that “there are no preliminary reports identifying the exact cause of death,” and “an autopsy is pending.”
Ironically, BoP officers were themselves clearly puzzled at how much damaging information about the suicide story was leaked by the Correctional Center. On the evening of August 10, its chief Hugh Hurwitz circulated a Breitbart article – itself based on a Reuters piece – published earlier that day reporting how the guards charged with keeping an eye on Epstein had failed to conduct regular 30-minute checks on the inmate, contrary to standard procedures.
“How do they have this info? Unbelievable,”Hurwitz was bitter.
It was indeed an extraordinary scoop, which wasn’t officially confirmed until several days later, when the two guards in question were charged with falsifying log records to cover the fact they’d spent substantial portions of their shift browsing the internet and sleeping, among other derelictions of their basic duties. The released papers don’t record if any leakage occurred.
The pair were charged, but on December 13, 2021, they were allowed to go free – a development not publicized until two-and-a-half weeks later, coincidentally the day after Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of recruiting and trafficking young girls for sexual abuse by Epstein. Hurwitz was dismissed from his post nine days after Epstein’s death, although he was simply moved elsewhere within the BoP.
To the dismay of BoP senior officials, however, the Metropolitan Correctional Center kept leaking sensitive information as a sieve. For example, on August 12, Hurwitz again expressed consternation over media reporting, when CNN reported that one of the officers on Epstein’s unit was not a “full-fledged”Correctional officer. The reason this particular bit of information so offended the director is unknown.
Still, one can only imagine the apoplexy and panic that erupted throughout the agency when on August 15 the Washington Post reported, based on sources familiar with Epstein’s autopsy, that several bones in his neck, including the hyoid, were broken, which is “more common in victims of homicide by strangulation”Instead of hanging.
This led to an explosion of requests from the media for copies of the autopsy reports. BoP took a tough line with an internal memo in public relations warning staff. “Definitely do NOT respond to any reporters on this.”The only thing that was provided in reply to these questions was a generic statement by Attorney General William P. Barr assuring that an inquiry would be opened.
Any anxieties in the BoP were no doubt assuaged the very next day though, when Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson announced that Epstein’s death had indeed been a suicide.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, hired by Epstein’s billionaire brother to monitor his autopsy, challenged that ruling. He told the Miami Herald two months later that the pathologist who conducted the autopsy initially “had trouble”It was impossible to determine why Epstein committed suicide before the ruling.
Baden – who has conducted over 20,000 autopsies – recorded how Epstein was found “stone-cold dead,” yet guards didn’t photograph the scene, instead calling emergency services, allowing federal authorities in breach of established protocol to “[rush] the body out of the jail, which they shouldn’t do because that destroys the evidence.”
Epstein had suffered neck injuries consistent with homicidal strangulation, which he confirmed. In fact, Epstein suffered neck fractures that were more consistent with hanging than any other victim in his 50 years of career as a forensic pathologist.
Baden expanded on these allegations in January 2020 in an extensive interview with 60 Minutes, questioning how Epstein – almost six-feet tall and weighing 185 pounds – could hang himself from the lower bunk, and why he didn’t use other materials in the cell as a ligature, such as wires or tubing from a sleep apnea machine, which were stronger and longer. Baden noted in another interview that photographs taken following Epstein’s death revealed bottles of medicine lying on top of the bunk.
As of January 2022, almost a year-and-a-half later, Epstein’s death remains an enduring mystery – if anything, the truth of what happened that fateful morning seems further away now than it did then.
This article has at least exposed corruption in the BoP’s and Metropolitan Correctional Centers and the willingness to fabricate stories to support their personal agendas.