Darden, 48, was a jail captain at the BOP’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City when billionaire Jeffrey Epstein reportedly committed suicide in his cell on August 10, 2019, after a high-profile arrest for sex trafficking involving underage girls.
Kerri Kulec, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), said MCC guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas — who worked under Darden — were placed on administrative leave following Epstein’s suicide, during which they were allegedly asleep on the job and later falsified records to cover up the fact.
Three days after Epstein’s death, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that the BOP would transfer MCC Warden Lamine N’Diaye to a leadership position at FCI Fort Dix. But in January 2020, citing “serious questions that must be answered,” Barr stopped the transfer while the FBI and DOJ’s inspector general continued to investigate Epstein’s suicide.
In a November 2019 interview, Barr admitted that the investigation revealed a series of mistakes that had made Epstein’s suicide possible, calling it “a perfect storm of screw ups.” He said he was appalled at the “failure to adequately secure this prisoner” and cited several “irregularities at this facility.”
But in an interview immediately after Epstein’s death, Serene Gregg, president of the MCC worker’s union, said she had been voicing concerns to BOP over short-staffing just days earlier. “You have people working who are extremely exhausted and others who are not trained to do the work,” Gregg said. “They have been playing a dangerous game for a long time. And it’s not just at MCC, it’s going on across the country.”
N’Diaye remained assigned to a desk job at BOP’s Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia. Barr initially transferred Warden Jame Petrucci from FCI Otisville in New York to replace N’Diaye at MCC. In January 2020, the former head of the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, M. Licon-Vitale, replaced Petrucci as acting warden.
Immediately following Epstein’s suicide, Barr also transferred BOP Director Hugh Hurwitz to serve as assistant director of Reentry Services for the prison system. Appointed as his temporary replacement was Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, BOP’s first female director, who had preciously served in the role from 1992 until her 2003 retirement.
In February 2020, Barr appointed a new permanent director of BOP, Michael Carvajal, a 30-year veteran of the prison system who had been assistant director of its Correctional Programs division. He takes over management of BOP’s 122 prisons, with nearly 37,000 employees and 170,000 prisoners.
Epstein, 66, was arrested on July 6, 2019 for allegations of sexual trafficking with a number of women, some as young as 14 at the time of the incident. Senator Ben Sasse, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Committee, called for voiding Epstein’s plea agreement in a 2008 federal sex-trafficking case in Florida. That had resulted in just 13 months’ incarceration at the Palm Beach County Jail, with daily furloughs on which Epstein was driven to work by a sheriff’s deputy who then sat waiting outside the billionaire’s office, leaving him unsupervised inside every day.
“This crooked deal cannot stand,” Sasse said, adding that it should be voided to “ensure that some measure of justice is finally delivered to Epstein’s victims who have been let down time and again by their government.”
Epstein had been placed on suicide watch at MCC but was later taken off. An investigation revealed that on the night he was successfully able to take his own life, the two guards on duty falsified documents to show that they performed regular 30-minute checks when in fact they were sleeping during their shift and shopping online. Epstein had been dead two hours before guards finally found him.
On July 2, 2020, federal authorities arrested British heiress and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of Epstein who is accused of helping him recruit underage girls and lying about it under oath in court. The 58-year-old is being held at BOP’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York. In 2017 and 2018, three MDC guards were convicted or pleaded guilty in the sexual abuse of at least six female detainees. (See PLN, Jan. 2019, p.62).
Maxwell is the youngest child of Robert Maxwell, a Czech immigrant to the UK who built a tabloid empire on which he floated a lavish lifestyle until he was found floating dead in the ocean near his yacht in 1991. His business collapsed in 1992 upon the revelation that he had defrauded the company’s pension fund. Even after intervention by the UK government, pensioners from Maxwell’s companies ended up receiving only 50 cents of every dollar due.
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