WASHINGTON -- Attorney General William Barr ratcheted up his criticism of the Bureau of Prisons Monday in the wake of Saturday's apparent suicide of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Barr pledged to hold accountable those responsible for letting the Palm Beach, Fla., multimillionaire escape justice.
"We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation," Barr said.
Speaking in New Orleans, Barr said the Justice Department will continue to investigate alleged co-conspirators and enablers of Epstein, despite his death.
"Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein," he said, speaking to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Any co-conspirators should not rest easy."
Pronouncing himself "appalled" that Epstein was taken off suicide watch before his death, Barr said the hedge fund manager's victims -- including, allegedly, dozens of underage girls -- deserved justice "and we will ensure that they get it."
Over the weekend, Barr ordered the DOJ's Office of Inspector General to examine how and why the jail failed to adequately secure Epstein, who had apparently tried to kill himself weeks earlier in the same facility.
The FBI was also looking into potential irregularities in the handling of Epstein, who had recently been denied bail pending trial and who had sought house arrest instead.
Barr promised Monday that "we will hold people accountable for this failure."
The irregularities cited by Barr are only the latest in a legal odyssey that has been rife with puzzling developments from the beginning.
More than 10 years ago, Epstein was accused of sexually abusing as many as three dozen underage girls who had been lured to his waterfront estate in Palm Beach under the pretext of giving a man a massage. The girls said they were sexually abused during those massages.
Nonetheless, then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta agreed to shelve a 53-page sex trafficking indictment as part of a deal with Epstein's lawyers that led the financier to plead guilty in 2008 to minor charges in state court. Epstein's legal team demanded that victims not be informed of the plea deal and that the plea arrangement, called a non-prosecution agreement, be sealed.
Epstein then served 13 months in the Palm Beach stockade, during which time he enjoyed liberal work release privileges. He was picked up six days a week by his private driver and chauffeured to a downtown West Palm Beach office suite, where he spent 12 hours a day, returning to the stockade only to sleep.
The original plea deal, the work release arrangement and now the death at the New York City jail are all the subject of separate investigations.
Last November, the Miami Herald published a series of news articles on Epstein's case, Perversion of Justice, that reexamined how he appeared to receive extraordinarily lenient treatment. In early July, Epstein was arrested by federal agents as he arrived at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport on his private plane after a visit to Paris.
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