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What happened to Jeffrey Epstein?

The sudden death of most the most high-profile prisoner ever to reside in the Manhattan Correctional Centre is all too convenient, writes ZOLTAN ZIGEDY

WRITING about Jeffrey Epstein on July 30, I predicted: “Of course, it is unlikely that we will ever know the whole truth about Epstein’s activities.” 

I went further to explain: “As with the ‘scandals’ of Robert Kraft or Harvey Weinstein, the media will give us a sensationalised taste, but fail us before the weight of influence and power … there are places we cannot go.”

And one place we cannot go is to the facts behind Epstein’s death in the Federal Manhattan Correctional Centre (MCC).

From the shocking announcement on the morning of August 10 that Epstein had died violently in his cell, the monopoly media has cried “conspiracy theory!” 

By now, after official conspiracies have been exposed again and again, the cry should sound hollow, but the media moguls trust that the public has a short memory. 

They count on people forgetting the Gulf of Tonkin fraud, the trumped-up Grenada invasion, the Iran-Contra affair, the bogus Papal-shooting Bulgarian connection, the Iraqi WMD fiasco and many other well-documented official conspiracies. 

By Sunday, the day after the announcement, The Atlantic magazine had an article that already dismissed any alternative explanation for Epstein’s death even though authorities had released little information and drawn no conclusions: “Baseless speculation abounded after the accused sex trafficker died, but criminal-justice scholars point instead to a broader suicide problem.”

Similarly, Danny Cevallos, a legal analyst for MSNBC, opining in the Los Angeles Times on the same day, heads off all speculation with: “Forget the conspiracy theories. Here’s why it’s likely that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.” 

Citing a number of off-the-wall tweets from no-one in particular and some non-specific prison suicide data, Cevallos dismisses “conspiracy.” Case closed.

Even Andrew O’Hagan, editor-at-large of the London Review of Books in far-away London and commenting on the LRB blog, could not resist rushing to judgement: “When guilty men kill themselves.”

As the days passed, unattributed “explanations” begin to pile up: the facility was underfunded, understaffed, even “rat infested … with raw sewage … horrible conditions” (The Guardian); Epstein’s lawyers had the suicide watch removed; the two assigned guards fell asleep; the guards falsified their reports; the mandatory cellmate went missing.

Taken together, they count as a remarkable combination of circumstances, especially in light of earlier accounts of the operation of the MCC. 

For example, writing in 2017, the New York Times writer Joseph Goldstein portrays the MCC as a harsh, but efficient facility, a jail “less hospitable than Guantanamo Bay … The highest-risk half-dozen inmates — or at least the ones facing the most severe charges — are housed in conditions so isolating that some have blamed them for deteriorating eyesight.”

Goldstein was writing at a time that the infamous drug lord El Chapo was about to enter pretrial incarceration in MCC. 

El Chapo had escaped incarceration on other occasions and Goldstein’s account stood as a reassurance that no monkey business would be tolerated there. 

Previous inmates Bernie Madoff and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the man behind the first World Trade Centre bombing, were proof of that expectation.

Goldstein describes the intense security, including intrusive cameras and constant surveillance. Both the severe 10 South unit and the Special Housing Unit are particularly attended well: “The 10 South unit is reached by a stairway from the ninth floor, a secure area known as the ‘Special Housing Unit,’ which has its own stringent security measures.” Apparently, Epstein was kept in the SHU. And if not, why not?

By August 2019, the media descriptions had moved in a different direction, painting a picture of a Barney Fife-like operation where Epstein could leave his cell for 12 hours, retiring to a private room with attorneys and others.

With the media exile of our greatest investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, no-one has stepped up to actually investigate procedures and conditions at MCC. 

No-one has taken an interest in challenging how an inmate’s lawyers could secure a release from suicide watch through the Bureau of Prisons bureaucratic procedures: 

Termination. Based upon clinical findings, the programme co-ordinator or designee will:

(1) Remove the inmate from suicide watch when the inmate is no longer at imminent risk for suicide, or

(2) Arrange for the inmate’s transfer to a medical referral centre or healthcare facility.

No-one has assessed the likelihood of the coincidence of both assigned guards falling asleep at the same time while the assigned cellmate has mysteriously disappeared, in the case of the most high-profile prisoner residing in MCC.

Epstein’s trial was projected for next summer, about the time of the respective Democratic and Republican Conventions, a time when any scandalising plea-bargaining would be revealed. Doesn’t this whet the appetite of any of the few remaining investigative journalists in the US?

Call it conspiracy talk if you like, but Epstein’s death is convenient, too convenient. The possibility of securing the truth through a public trial — even if it was remote — is now foreclosed. Are there wealthy, powerful people now breathing a sigh of relief?

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