Our firm has been representing individuals in serious federal cases for over 20 years. At times, Attorney Page Pate will write opinion articles discussing important cases appearing in the news. In this case, CNN publishes Page Pate’s opinion piece about the circumstances of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide while in federal custody. Page discusses the problems in the federal prison system that may have lead to his death while awaiting trial on sex offense charges.
Jeffrey Epstein was being held in federal custody after being charged in a sex trafficking case. Epstein had previously been on suicide watch after being found with marks on his neck, but had recently been taken off suicide watch and had been cleared to return to the Special Housing Unit (SHU). Epstein was then found dead in his cell from an apparent hanging suicide.
In his article, Page discusses several questions that the general public are likely asking about the circumstances of Epstein’s death, such as “Why was Epstein taken off suicide watch so soon? Why was he not monitored more closely in the SHU where he was held? And given the nature of the charges against him and the other powerful, high profile individuals whose names have been linked to his case, was this all a mistake or something more nefarious?”
Having represented many people charged in federal court with sexual exploitation and other similar crimes, Page explains that “it is common for suicide to be a major factor when a judge is considering the conditions of pretrial release or detention.” Page also points out that “the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) considers inmates held in the SHU to potentially be at a greater risk of suicide than the general population…Once an inmate is on suicide watch, as Epstein was, he or she should not be returned to SHU until the risk of suicide has passed. (In the BOP’s words, when “the crisis is over.”) This policy is directed towards inmates who are placed in the SHU for disciplinary reasons, but it would also seem to apply to an inmate like Epstein who may have been in the SHU to keep him protected from other inmates.”
Page has dealt with the BOP over many years and believes “Epstein’s suicide could have been prevented had prison officials followed the policies and protocols in place for at-risk inmates…But I don’t think that means that the prison guards or staff intentionally looked the other way while Epstein killed himself. In my practice, I have often been frustrated by the incompetence of certain BOP correctional officers and management. While it is possible something more nefarious was at play, I think it is much more likely that Epstein’s suicide was the result of negligence and not some grand conspiracy.”
In light of Epstein’s death, the criminal case against him has been dismissed. However, Page notes that “The FBI is looking into the circumstances of Epstein’s death, and Attorney General William Barr issued a statement saying a special inquiry would be opened. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which brought the charges against Epstein, also promised to continue the sex trafficking conspiracy investigation. Even before hundreds of pages of court documents from a 2015 defamation case were unsealed on Friday, many of Epstein’s accusers named high-profile individuals as complicit. Although none of these other individuals were charged, they remain potential targets if the investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to corroborate some of the allegations contained in the recently released court documents.”
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.