Lawyers representing the two guards who have been criminally charged for allegedly failing to check in on disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein when he killed himself said their clients are victims of a broken system.
Defense lawyers said in court Monday that Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41, are being made scapegoats for a federal prisons system that is fundamentally flawed, according to multiple reports.
“Unfortunately, the decisions that led to the death of Mr. Epstein were not only because of what my client did or did not do,” Montell Figgins, Thomas’ lawyer, said, according to the New York Times.
“Where are the supervisors?” Figgins asked. “Where are the people who make the policy decisions? Why didn’t Mr. Epstein have a cellmate at the time that this happened?”
Jason Foy, Noel’s lawyer, maintained the case is being affected by “outside circumstances that are driving this prosecution.”
The defendants, who have pled not guilty, have been released on bail ahead of a trial that Judge Analisa Torres scheduled for April 20.
Authorities filed a six-count indictment in Manhattan federal court last week that charges Noel and Thomas with one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and five counts of falsifying records.
Epstein was found dead hanging in his Manhattan federal jail cell Aug. 10 while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Noel and Thomas “repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement announcing the charges.
The indictment alleges that while the guards “repeatedly signed false certifications attesting to having conducted multiple” checks on inmates that they did not perform, they had in fact “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area” of the unit where Epstein was being held.
But from 10:30 p.m. Aug. 9 until 6:30 a.m. the following day when Noel and Thomas discovered Epstein’s body, no checks had been done “as a result of the defendants’ conduct,” the court document says.
The guards, who were the only ones assigned to Esptein’s unit, were supposed to check in on him as part of routine rounds that were to be completed every 30 minutes.
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