(AP) — Following the death
of financier Jeffrey Epstein
in prison, two Bureau of Prisons guards admitted to falsifying records in a deferred prosecution agreement that will spare them a criminal record if they cooperate fully with investigators.
Guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas agreed to the deals in Manhattan
federal court, admitting guilt before Judge Analisa Torres to accusations in an indictment that will be dismissed if they follow all of the rules of their agreement for six months, and the judge later signed 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 may be used for any purpose,” the judge told them as she read from court documents the terms of the agreement.
Epstein committed suicide
in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial
on sex trafficking
charges, causing the Bureau of Prisons to face intense scrutiny of operations at the Metropolitan Correctional Center
, a federal jail adjacent to two large federal courthouses in lower Manhattan.
Prosecutors said Noel and Thomas were at their desks just 15 feet (4.5 meters) from Epstein's cell, shopping online for furniture and motorcycles and failing to make required rounds every 30 minutes, and that both appeared to have fallen asleep for a two-hour stretch, according to court documents.
Their defenders had noticed that they had been assigned to guard Epstein while working overtime due to staff shortages; one guard, who was 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.
Nonetheless, the agreement 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 the 100 hours of community service required of Noel and Thomas was treating what they did like a traffic violation.
In a statement issued Tuesday, attorney Jason Foy stated that his client, Noel, was "extremely grateful" for the agreement in lieu of further prosecution to settle the six counts against her.
“Securing a resolution that eliminates both imprisonment and a criminal conviction is the favorable outcome that Ms. Noel has prayed for since her arrest,” said Foy.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos, the terms of the deferred prosecution agreements require them to disclose all information about their activities with the Bureau of Prisons when interviewed by the Department of Justice
and the Office
of the Inspector General.
The judge went on to say that they could also be interviewed by FBI
agents or any other law enforcement agency designated by court officers or federal prosecutors.
The terms of the agreement do not prevent the Bureau of Prisons from taking separate administrative action against them, such as suspension or dismissal.
This story was contributed to by Associated Press writer
Michael R. Sisak.