Official: Feds feared Epstein confidant might kill herself
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal officials were so worried Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime confidant Ghislaine Maxwell might take her own life after her arrest that they took away her clothes and bedsheets and made her wear paper attire while in custody, an official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
The steps to ensure Maxwell’s safety while she’s locked up at a federal jail in New York City extend far beyond the measures federal officials took when they first arrested her in New Hampshire last week.
The Justice Department has added extra security precautions and placed federal officials outside the Bureau of Prisons in charge of ensuring there is adequate protection for Maxwell. That’s to help prevent other inmates from harming her and to stop her from harming herself, the official said.
The concern comes in part because Epstein, 66, killed himself in a federal jail in Manhattan last summer while in custody on sex trafficking charges, spawning conspiracy theories over his death despite a medical examiner ruling it a suicide. The sprawling case against him ensnared British royalty and American elite who attended parties at his mansions. Whispers over who knew what and when about Epstein even reached the White House, after video surfaced of President Donald Trump and the financier chatting at a Mar-a-Lago party in 1992.
The case appeared dormant until Maxwell was arrested last Thursday on charges she helped lure at least three girls — one as young as 14 — to be sexually abused by Epstein, who was accused of victimizing dozens of girls and women over many years.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, was the former girlfriend and longtime close associate of Epstein. She is accused of facilitating his crimes and even joining him in sexually abusing the girls, according to the indictment against her. Several Epstein victims have described Maxwell as his chief enabler, recruiting and grooming girls for abuse. She has denied wrongdoing and called claims against her “absolute rubbish.”
Maxwell was arrested by a team of federal agents last week at a $1 million estate she had purchased in New Hampshire. The investigators had been keeping an eye on Maxwell and knew she had been hiding out in various locations in New England.
She had switched her email address, ordered packages under someone else’s name and registered at least one new phone number under an alias “G Max,” prosecutors have said.
When the agents swooped in to arrest her, they weren’t sure that she was even at the home, the official said. Some investigators believed she may have already fled the United States to avoid prosecution, the official added.
Maxwell was not sent to the same jail. Rather, she was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, just over the Brooklyn Bridge from where Epstein was held.
The other protocols put in place for Maxwell’s confinement include ensuring that she has a roommate in her cell, that she is monitored and that someone is always with her while she’s behind bars, the official said.
The official could not discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The Bureau of Prisons has been the subject of intense scrutiny since Epstein’s death, with staff shakeups and leadership changes. Attorney General William Barr said his death was the result of the “perfect storm of screw ups.”
The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued for years by serious misconduct, violence and staffing shortages so severe that guards often work overtime day after day or are forced to work mandatory double shifts. It has also struggled recently with an exploding number of coronavirus cases in prisons across the U.S.