NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Justice Department is investigating how disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein apparently died by suicide this weekend while in a Manhattan jail.
Epstein was facing sex trafficking charges.
“This case was important to the victims who had the courage to come forward and deserve the opportunity to confront the accused in the courtroom,” Attorney General William Barr said.
Jack Scarola is an attorney for some of the victims.
“Epstein’s death does not end the liability of his estate. Whatever cases are currently pending and whatever new cases will be filed still have a viable chance at producing a recovery for victims,” he said.
He called the irregularities “deeply concerning.”
“I was appalled, and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner,” Barr said.
Barr said the irregularities demand a thorough investigation.
- Timeline Of Epstein’s Life And Crimes
- Read The 2019 U.S. v. Jeffrey Epstein Indictment (PDF)
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The Medical Examiner’s officer performed an autopsy Sunday but details have not yet been released. One source tells CBS News Epstein hanged himself, and CBS News has learned guards tried to revive him, saying, “Breathe, Epstein, breathe.” Others heard commotion coming from Epstein’s jail cell described as yelling, shouting and shrieking.
The disgraced financier died less than three weeks after sources said he previously attempted suicide.
Guards at the jail were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed the night before his death, according to the New York Times. The Times also says guards were working extreme overtime because of staffing shortages.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability,” Barr said.
Watch: CBS2 Urban Affairs Expert Mark Peters On The Epstein Death Investigation —
CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters says while this situation is not common, it’s also not unique.
“In fact, DOI, a number of years ago, actually arrested a corrections officer who had failed to do the mandated 30-minute checks and then falsified paperwork to cover up that fact, so this is not the first time something like this has happened in a jail,” Peters said.
According to Peters, investigators will be looking at surveillance footage from the corridors outside Epstsein’s cell to see how often officers were walking by.
He also says investigators will want to interview the psychiatrist who took Epstein off suicide watch to figure out why that decision was made.
A union representative for workers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center tells CBS News Epstein’s death is not a surprise.
She said staffing is “completely inadequate” with workers putting in more than 60 hours a week, leaving them overwhelmed and not alert.
“I think they’re in shock,” said Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie Brown. Brown spent more than two years looking into the Epstein case, and told CBS This Morning she spoke with several of his alleged victims who feel his death robs them of their day in court.
“They think it’s another example of how our criminal justice system is not only broken, it seems to favor wealthy people,” Brown said.
Barr also said Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators should not rest easy.
“This case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said. “The victims deserve justice and they will get it.”
Two days after Epstein’s death, the FBI raided his 70-acre estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Documents that have just been unsealed include accusations that the 66-year-old’s ex-girlfriend played an important role in Epstein’s sexual abuse ring. She has denied the allegations.
Federal investigators noted the indictment against Epstein included a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could still face charges in the case.