Correction Officers Plead Not Guilty To Charges Of Falsifying Records By Michael Joseph on December 19, 2019

Guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas were accused in a 20-page indictment of preparing records to make it appear as though they were conducting mandatory counts of prisoners in the special housing unit of Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center, when in fact they had not, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.  According to the filing, Noel and Thomas failed to conduct mandatory checks the night of Aug. 9 to Aug. 10 and then repeatedly submitted records falsely claiming that they had. Guards discovered Epstein’s body in the early hours of Aug. 10, and the city medical examiner later determined that Epstein had died by suicide. However, an expert hired by Epstein’s brother has claimed the death was more consistent with homicide by strangulation.

As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction. Epstein was transferred to suicide watch following an apparent suicide attempt July 23 but was moved back to special housing a week later.  To safeguard against further attempts, he was assigned to the cell closest to the corrections officers’ desk. Guards at the jail are required to conduct institutional counts of inmates in each housing unit and perform rounds in the special housing unit every 30 minutes to ensure that every inmate is alive and counted for. Both the indictment and public statements from the U.S. attorney’s office fully endorsed the medical examiner’s finding that Epstein had committed suicide by hanging.  But prosecutors also publicly laid out, for the first time, details about how security at the special housing unit functioned on the night of Epstein’s death.  Prosecutors said that Noel and Thomas, the only two officers working the overnight shift, were required to conduct five institutional checks and then complete corresponding paperwork to verify the counts.  The indictment said that surveillance video of MCC showed Epstein returning to his cell following an attorney visit. Noel and an unnamed officer, the filing alleged, never conducted the required count at 10 p.m., when Epstein and his fellow inmates were locked down in their cells for the night.  The two guards nonetheless completed their report without ever entering the tier in which Epstein was housed.

The officers are accused of failing to check on him every half hour and fabricating log entries to claim they had. Instead, it’s alleged they “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area.” They pleaded not guilty on November 19,2019 to charges of conspiring to defraud the government and falsifying records.

The falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system, which has been plagued for years by systematic failures. These indictments don’t address the core issues inside of the Metropolitan Correctional Center New York or the Federal Prison system in its entirety. These staff where placed in an assignment where the tools and resources needed to be successful were not available. Simply assigning blame will not correct the staff shortages that put this chain of events in place. While the Indictment indicates these staff did not conduct 30-minute round, it is a fact that even had they conducted the 30-minute rounds, Mr. Epstein still would’ve had 29 minutes to take his own life. It is clear to us that these indictments are a mask to cover up the true issues and merely be able to create a narrative that government has taken action. We encourage the public at large to look at the facts of this event. It is important not to rush to judgment but instead be mindful and open to all the facts in the case.

Our New York attorneys know that prison officials often look the other way, when prisoners get hurt or even hurt themselves. This case involves a high profile prisoner and finally some light is being shined on what is a rampant problem of gaurds who are deliberately indifferent to the needs of prisoners. 

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