Epstein, who had friendships with U.S. President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, was facing the possibility of 45 years in prison if convicted on charges of orchestrating a sex trafficking ring and sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
Media reports said Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after a suspected earlier attempt to kill himself, but was removed from the watch at the end of July. The New York Times reported that Epstein was supposed to have been checked on every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not being followed the night before he was found dead.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement he was “appalled” by Epstein’s death while in federal custody. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said.
Epstein was being held without bail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Epstein to plead guilty in 2008 to Florida state prostitution charges, for which he served a 13-month term and most days was freed to work at his office in south Florida. He also was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the underage girls he abused.
President Trump’s former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who had been the federal prosecutor handling the Epstein case in Florida at the time of that plea deal, has resigned over his handling of the matter.