NEW YORK (AP) — Two Bureau of Prisons guards admitted falsifying records Tuesday after financier Jeffrey Epstein’s jail death in a deferred prosecution deal that will spare them a criminal record if they fully cooperate with investigators.
Guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas agreed to the deals in Manhattan federal court as they admitted their guilt before Judge Analisa Torres to an indictment that will be dismissed if they follow all the rules of their agreement for six months. The judge said she will sign orders approving the deal.
“You shall truthfully and completely disclose all information with respect to the activities of yourself and others related to your employment by the Bureau of Prisons, which information can be used for any purpose,” the judge told them as she read details of the deal from court documents.
Epstein took his life at a Manhattan lockup in August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. The death, a major embarrassment to the Bureau of Prisons, touched off intense scrutiny of operations at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal jail adjacent to two large federal courthouses in lower Manhattan.
In court papers, prosecutors said Noel and Thomas were at their desks just 15 feet (4.5 meters) from Epstein’s cell as they shopped online for furniture and motorcycles and failed to make required rounds every 30 minutes. The indictment alleged that both appeared to have fallen asleep for one two-hour stretch.
Their defenders had noted that they were assigned to guard Epstein while working overtime because of staff shortages. One guard, not usually a guard, was working a fifth straight day of overtime while the other was working mandatory overtime, which meant a second eight-hour shift in one day.
Still, the deal was criticized last week. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a vocal critic of the Justice Department’s handling of Epstein’s case, called it “unacceptable” and said 100 hours of community service required of Noel and Thomas was treating what they did like a traffic offense.
In a release Tuesday, attorney Jason Foy said his client, Noel, was “extremely grateful” for the agreement in lieu of further prosecution to resolve the six counts against her.
“Securing a resolution that eliminates both imprisonment and a criminal conviction is the favorable outcome that Ms. Noel prayed for since her arrest,” Foy said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said the terms of the deferred prosecution agreements call for disclosure of all information with respect to their activities with the Bureau of Prisons when they are interviewed by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General.
The judge was more specific, saying they also may be interviewed by FBI agents or any other law enforcement agency designated by court officers or federal prosecutors.
Terms of the deal do not preclude the Bureau of Prisons from taking separate administrative action against them, including suspension and dismissal.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.
Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press