In a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas related to a case involving Jeffrey Epstein’s former cellmate, prosecutors admitted that the Metropolitan Correctional Center has lost the surveillance video outside Epstein’s cell from July 23, the night of his first apparent suicide attempt. Prison authorities state that they “inadvertently” deleted the footage from outside the cell of Epstein and former cellmate Nicholas Tartaglione, saving over it with tapes from another tier of the facility. “As a result, video from outside the defendant’s cell … no longer exists,” prosecutors wrote, adding that there is no backup system on which it is saved.
Tartaglione’s attorneys requested the surveillance footage, hoping it would prove that he “acted appropriately” and aid in his sentencing in September for killing four men and burying them in his yard in New Jersey in 2016. The night of July 23, Epstein was found semi-conscious with bruises on his neck in their shared cell; the financier later claimed that his cellmate “roughed him up.” In July, Tartaglione’s attorney denied that his client had assaulted Epstein, while officials speculated over whether or not the apparent self-harm was a staged suicide attempt to secure a transfer to a more forgiving facility, or a genuine effort to end his life.
After concerns late last year that the video had been lost, prosecutors claimed in December that the footage had been found. But on Thursday, they alleged that MCC staff “inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier” after being informed by the FBI that the footage they’d handed over was from a different floor. Prosecutors cite “technical errors” as the reason there is no backup. “It is stunning that a video which we asked to be preserved and which the jail should have saved without a request was destroyed,” Tartaglione’s lawyer, Bruce Barket, said in a statement.
After the apparent suicide attempt, Epstein was placed on suicide watch and transferred to a special housing unit , where he was separated from the rest of the prison and provided with extra security. However, guards broke protocol, leaving him alone for hours in the early morning of August 10, when he apparently hanged himself.
The obliviated footage from Epstein’s first apparent suicide attempt will certainly encourage the widespread speculation that the alleged sex trafficker did not kill himself. It’s a theory that is not without fuel already, as a pathologist with a mixed record determined that his death “points to homicide;” his own lawyers assert that their client didn’t kill himself; and the FBI is currently investigating if “criminal enterprise” played a role in the financier’s death.