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Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in suicide, medical examiner rules

Key Points
  • Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging in his jail cell, the New York medical examiner determined.
  • Epstein, 66, was found in his cell in Manhattan federal lockup Saturday morning and transferred to a nearby hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead.
  • Epstein was accused of abusing dozens of underage girls in his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, MA in 2004. Epstein is connected with several prominent people including politicians, actors and academics.
Rick Friedman | Corbis News | Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell, the New York medical examiner said Friday.

Epstein, 66, was found in his cell in Manhattan federal lockup Saturday morning and transferred to a nearby hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead. His autopsy was performed Sunday, NBC News reported, citing two law enforcement officials.

Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson said in a statement to CNBC:

After careful review of all investigative information, including complete autopsy findings, the determination on the death of Jeffrey Epstein is below—

Cause: Hanging
Manner: Suicide

Epstein's attorneys Martin G Weinberg, Reid Weingarten and Michael Miller released the following statement on the autopsy results, saying they were "not satisfied with the conclusions of the medical examiner."

First, no one should die in jail. And no one, not Mr. Epstein who was presumed innocent and had violated no prison disciplinary rule, and not anyone should be imprisoned under the harsh, even medieval conditions at the MCC where Mr. Epstein spent his final hours. His safety was the responsibility of the MCC. It is indisputable that the authorities violated their own protocols. The defense team fully intends to conduct its own independent and complete investigation into the circumstances and cause of Mr. Epstein's death including if necessary legal action to view the pivotal videos - if they exist as they should - of the area proximate to Mr. Epstein's cell during the time period leading to his death. We are not satisfied with the conclusions of the medical examiner. We will have a more complete response in the coming days.

Dr. Michael Baden, a world renowned forensic pathologist, was present at the autopsy at the request of Epstein's legal team. Baden has not responded to CNBC 's earlier requests for comment before the autopsy findings were released. 

Epstein was remanded to jail pending trial on charges of sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking conspiracy, which were lodged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month. He was accused of abusing dozens of underage girls in his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carried a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted.

Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, had been found semiconscious and with marks on his neck in his cell less than three weeks before his death. He was placed on suicide watch in a so-called Special Housing Unit for at-risk inmates — but was reportedly taken back off suicide watch after about a week.

A lawyer for Epstein's former cellmate, Nicholas Tartaglione, told NBC that the cellmate had been cleared of any wrongdoing in that July 23 incident. Tartaglione, a former upstate New York police officer, was arrested in December 2016 on charges that he killed four men as part of a drug distribution conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.

The death of possibly the most high-profile inmate in the country infuriated officials and allowed conspiracy theories about a possible murder to run wild, especially on social media.

Attorney General William Barr, whose Department of Justice oversees the Bureau of Prisons, said he was "appalled" that Epstein had died while incarcerated. Barr also vowed that the FBI and the DOJ's internal watchdog office would investigate the "serious irregularities" at the jail, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

The DOJ said Tuesday that the jail's warden at the time, Lamine N'Diaye, would be replaced on Barr's orders.

The Washington Post on Thursday fueled more suspicion by reporting that Epstein's hyoid, a bone in the neck, had been broken — a circumstance that some experts say is more common in strangulations than in hangings.

Epstein was a super-wealthy money manager who had forged contacts with a long list of rich and powerful figures, and some of them had been implicated in his alleged crimes by his accusers.

Authorities have signaled they plan to continue investigating Epstein's case despite his death. FBI and NYPD agents searched his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands this week, and appeared to seize Epstein's computers, drone footage of the raids showed.

Meanwhile, lawsuits brought by some of Epstein's accusers are still active. Jennifer Araoz, who accuses Epstein of raping her when she was 15 years old, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against his estate and multiple women he employed — including his alleged procurer of young girls, Ghislaine Maxwell.

On Thursday, two more alleged victims sued Epstein's estate and his "recruiter" in a $100 million lawsuit.

Epstein was a registered sex offender as a result of pleading guilty in 2008 to state charges filed in Florida related to prostitution involving an underage girl.

He signed a nonprosecution deal with federal prosecutors as part of his plea agreement and spent 13 months in a state jail, where he was allowed out on work release most days.

Alex Acosta, the top prosecutor in Florida at the time, resigned as Trump's Labor secretary shortly after Epstein's arrest last month, amid scorching criticism of his handling of the Florida case.

VIDEO3:4703:47
What happens next in the Jeffrey Epstein legal drama after his apparent suicide