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Prison guards charged over Jeffrey Epstein death appear in court

The two prison guards charged over Jeffrey Epstein’s cell suicide appeared in court in Manhattan on Monday morning for a brief hearing where their trial date was set and attorneys for them argued they were ‘scapegoats’ for the bureau of prisons.  

Tova Noel and Michael Thomas both pleaded not guilty to falsifying police records last week as the result of a months long investigation into Epstein’s scandalous death. 

Prosecutors say they were surfing the internet and sleeping on August 10, when Epstein hanged himself in his cell at the Manhattan Correctional Center. They went from 10.30pm on August 9 until 6.30am on August 10 without checking on him, according to charging documents. 

On Monday, their trial was scheduled for April 20. Another pre-trial hearing was set for January 30.

Lawyers for one of the pair argued that they were being sacrificed by the bureau of prisons as scapegoats for Epstein’s death. 

Michael Thomas

Tova Noel and Michael Thomas are pictured leaving court on Monday. Their trial has been set for April

Hundreds of hours of surveillance footage and bank records will be submitted as part of the case, it was revealed at Monday’s hearing. 

As she exited the courthouse, Noel was protected by a formation of prison guards who blocked her from public view.  

AG Bill Barr said last week that Epstein’s death was a ‘perfect storm’ of screw ups but that surveillance footage showed no one had been in his cell the night he died. 

The late pedophile’s lawyers have suggested he was murdered, sparking conspiracy theories that he may have been killed to stop him from giving up any of his famous or powerful associates to law enforcement. 

Noel was protected by a group of people who linked arms and made a formation around her as she left the courthouse

Noel was protected by a group of people who linked arms and made a formation around her as she left the courthouse 

Tova Noel, whose appearance had changed dramatically since the last time she was in court, leaving the courthouse on Monday

Tova Noel, whose appearance had changed dramatically since the last time she was in court, leaving the courthouse on Monday 

Thomas was also escorted out of the building by a group of supporters

Thomas was also escorted out of the building by a group of supporters 

An artist's sketch created inside the courtoom, where cameras were banned

An artist’s sketch created inside the courtoom, where cameras were banned 

Epstein was awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges when he died. 

He had already attempted to kill himself once and been put on suicide watch the night Noel and Thomas allegedly left him unattended for eight hours.

Epstein was found dead in his cell on August 10

Epstein was found dead in his cell on August 10

Questions also remain over why he did not have a cellmate who could have stopped him from taking his own life.  

According to an indictment, Noel and Thomas were falling asleep and surfing the internet instead of performing mandatory checks on Epstein’s cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10, the night he killed himself. 

After they discovered the high-profile inmate dead, the officers allegedly told a supervisor they had ‘messed up’ and ‘didn’t do any checks’ in the hours before he killed himself. 

Noel and Thomas, who had both self-surrendered to the FBI earlier on Tuesday, were supported by about a dozen correctional officers in the courtroom. 

The two officers were each released on $100,000 bond and ordered to surrender their firearms and travel documents last week. 

In an orchestrated plan, their fellow officers formed a protective blockade to help shield them from photographers as they were released and left the court. 

Around a dozen corrections officers who turned up in support of their two colleagues formed a protective blockade around the accused and covered their heads while shepherding them into waiting cars. 

Thomas' attorney Montell Figgins speaks outside the courthouse in defense of him

Thomas’ attorney Montell Figgins speaks outside the courthouse in defense of him 

Noel and Thomas, who were assigned to Epstein’s Special Housing Unit at the federal jail, are accused of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had.  

The procedures that should’ve been followed in Epstein’s jail unit:  

The two guards were required to jointly conduct institutional counts at 4pm, 10pm, 12am, 3am and 5am of the prisoners in the unit.

Both officers are required to walk the six levels of the unit to count and observe every inmate.

They then have to each fill in and sign a form with the date and time the counts were performed.

The slips are then collected and taken to the prison’s control center where officers double check them to make sure every inmate is accounted for. 

In addition to the count, officers assigned to the unit Epstein was in are required to walk around every 30 minutes to ensure inmates are ‘alive and accounted for’, according to the indictment. 

They are also required to sign forms saying they carried out these 30-minute checks. 

In total, the two guards were required to carry out five institutional counts. 

Prosecutors say surveillance video shows the officers did not conduct a single count despite them logging that they did.

They are also accused of falsely signing off that they had carried out more than 75 separate 30-minute checks.  

The two guards are accused of repeatedly signing false certifications saying that they had conducted multiple counts of inmates during their shift. The prisoners were not checked on for eight hours, according to the indictment. The guards discovered Epstein’s body at 6.30am.   

Noel, who has worked at the jail since 2016, was working an overtime shift and had been on duty for roughly 14 hours in the unit by the time Epstein’s body was found. 

Her colleague, Thomas, had worked at the jail since 2007. He was also working an overtime shift the night Epstein died.  

The two guards were required to jointly conduct institutional counts at 4pm, 10pm, 12am, 3am and 5am of the prisoners in the unit.

Both officers are required to walk the six levels of the unit to count and observe every inmate.

They then have to each fill in and sign a form with the date and time the counts were performed. 

The slips are then collected and taken to the prison’s control center where officers double check them to make sure every inmate is accounted for.

In addition to the count, officers assigned to the unit Epstein was in are required to walk around every 30 minutes to ensure inmates are ‘alive and accounted for’, according to the indictment. They are also required to sign forms saying they carried out these 30-minute checks.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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