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Jeffrey Epstein on suicide watch after accused sex trafficker is found injured in New York jail

Key Points
  • Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is on a suicide watch after the wealthy financier was found mysteriously injured in his cell in a federal jail in New York City, WNBC-TV reported Wednesday night.
  • According to sources, officials do not know whether Epstein tried to hang himself, if he staged a suicide attempt, or if he was assaulted.
  • The former friend of presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton is accused of sexually abusing dozens of young girls at his New York and Florida residences in the early 2000s.
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is on a suicide watch after the wealthy financier was found mysteriously injured in his cell in a federal jail in New York City, WNBC-TV reported Wednesday night.

Epstein, who was arrested in early July on federal charges, was on the floor of his cell in a fetal position when he was discovered, sources told NBC. He was semi-conscious and had marks on his neck when he was found.

Epstein may have tried to hang himself in the lower Manhattan lockup, according to sources who spoke with WNBC-TV.

But another source said Epstein's injuries were not serious, and raised the possibility that he may have used the incident to try obtain a transfer from the jail.

A fourth source who spoke with NBC said that officials have not ruled out the chance that Epstein was assaulted in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was being held in the jail's Special Housing Unit to protect him against possible violence from inmates in general population.

Another inmate in that jail, where Epstein is being held without bail, has been questioned about the incident.

NBC reported that the inmate was Nicholas Tartaglione, a former Orange County, New York, police officer who was arrested in December 2016 and accused of killing four men in an alleged cocaine distribution conspiracy.

Two sources told NBC on Thursday that Tartaglione was cellmates with Epstein.

A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prison said on Thursday that Epstein remains in the MCC, despite some reports that he is in a local hospital.

"As with all inmates, for privacy and security reasons, we do not share information on an inmate's medical status or their conditions of confinement," the BOP spokesman said.

VIDEO11:2511:25
NYT reporter explains Jeffrey Epstein's Wall Street connections

Sources told WNBC that Tartaglione claimed that he did not see anything happen to Epstein, and said he did not touch him.

Tartaglione's lawyer Bruce Barket told CNBC on Thursday that Epstein and his client were in the Special Housing Unit, but would not confirm that they shared a cell.

"They interacted extensively," Barket said of Epstein and his client. "They've gotten along pretty well."

Tartaglione has pleaded not guilty in his case. Prosecutors announced in March they would seek the death penalty for the ex-cop.

The U.S Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting Epstein, declined to comment.

Bruce Barket said in an email to CNBC on Wednesday night: "Any suggestion that Mr. Tartaglione assault[ed] anyone is a complete fabrication."

"This story is being leaked to retaliate against Mr. Tartaglione for complaining to the court about the deplorable conditions at the MCC," Barket said.

"We made those complaints on Monday in open court ... We warned the judge that officials at the jail would retaliate against Nick because we have been exposing the inhumane conditions at the facility."

Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who says she represents several accusers of Epstein, tweeted in response to the news about his injury.

Epstein, 66, was indicted this month on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

A judge last week denied him bail of upwards of $100 million because he represented a danger to women if released, and his risk of flight due to his vast wealth.

Judge Richard Berman also noted the fact that Epstein had in recent months made large payments to potential witnesses against him, and the discovery by FBI agents of a trove of lewd photographs of young women at his Manhattan townhouse.

"This newly discovered evidence also suggests that Mr. Epstein poses 'ongoing and forward-looking danger,'" the judge wrote. "Mr. Epstein's dangerousness is considerable and includes sex crimes with minor girls and tampering with potential witnesses."

Epstein's lawyers on Monday notified Berman that they plan to appeal his bail denial.

VIDEO0:5800:58
NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

Epstein, a former friend of presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Prosecutors say he sexually abused dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his New York City townhouse and Palm Beach, Florida, who visited him under the guise of giving him massages. Some of the girls were as young as 14 years old.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges in Florida related to an underage girl.

He served 13 months in custody in that case, but spent much of that time on work release.

He was not prosecuted on federal charges at the time due to a non-prosecution agreement he reached with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, which was headed at the time by Alex Acosta. Acosta resigned this month as U.S. Labor secretary after controversy over that deal.