Surveillance footage recorded outside Jeffrey Epstein’s prison cell during his suicide attempt was destroyed, prosecutors revealed Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maurene Comey and Jason Swergold told a federal court that prison staff had lost both the original and backup videos due to separate errors. The footage was recorded on July 22 and 23 by a camera outside the Manhattan prison cell where Epstein was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. He had pleaded not guilty.
Epstein attempted to hang himself that night while sharing a cell with accused quadruple murderer Nick Tartaglione, officials have said. Days after the incident, Tartaglione’s attorney Bruce Barket the Metropolitan Correctional Center to preserve the video.
Swergold, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said last month in White Plains Federal Court that the footage had not been saved. Less than 24 hours later, he reversed himself, saying it had been archived.
Now, in a letter filed with the court, Swergold and Comey said the prison had preserved video from outside the wrong cell.
“The footage contained on the preserved video was for the correct date and time, but captured a different tier than the one where Cell-1 was located because the preserved video did not show corrections officers responding to any of the cells seen on the video. After speaking with MCC legal counsel, the Government was informed that the MCC computer system listed a different, incorrect cell for Tartaglione,” they wrote.
Regarding the backup footage, the U.S. attorneys explained: “The requested video no longer exists on the backup system and has not since at least August 2019 as a result of technical errors.”
“Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself”
Barket, the lawyer for Epstein’s former cellmate Tartaglione, said he was “deeply disturbed” that the video has “disappeared.”
“It is stunning that a video which we asked to be preserved and which the jail should have saved without a request was destroyed. More troubling are the various and inconsistent accounts of what happened to the video. We believe that the video would have strongly corroborated our client’s assertion that he acted appropriately that evening and are deeply disturbed it has disappeared,” Barket wrote in a text to the New York Daily News.
Tartaglione, a former New York police officer, had told authorities he rescued Epstein from hanging himself. He had wanted to use the footage as evidence of his good character.
Footage that could have potentially shed light on Epstein’s death has been lost before.
In August, a pair of anonymous law enforcement sources told Reuters that two cameras outside the jail cell where Epstein died had malfunctioned. The sources said the FBI was trying to recover the footage from the cameras, which were both positioned within view of Epstein’s cell, according to the news agency.
On Aug. 10, prison officers found Epstein dead in a different cell, where he was being held alone. New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson officially ruled his death a suicide.
However, Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who has been hired by Mark Epstein to look into his brother’s death, and others, have argued that the autopsy findings suggest murder.
“Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself” has become an internet meme.
Reuters reported last month that the FBI is investigating a number of people the bureau suspects “facilitated” Epstein’s alleged crimes.