Investigators looking at whether Jeffrey Epstein's guards may have been sleeping

A federal Bureau of Prisons team will visit the jail where the accused sex trafficker was found unresponsive to examine what went wrong.
Image: Metropolitan Correctional Center
The Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York on Aug. 13, 2019.Mary Altaffer / AP

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By Andrew Blankstein, Jonathan Dienst and Pete Williams

Investigators are looking into whether two guards tasked with watching Jeffrey Epstein may have been sleeping when the accused sex trafficker died in a New York City jail cell, two officials familiar with the investigation told NBC News on Tuesday night.

The warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan has been temporarily reassigned and the two guards have been placed on leave after Epstein died by apparent suicide Saturday morning.

Investigators haven't reached any conclusions as they review whether the guards might have been asleep, the law enforcement sources said.

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According to a person familiar with the investigation, a male employee who was working overtime at the jail when Epstein died wasn't a full-fledged corrections officer. But he had been a corrections officer there for seven years before he accepted a different job with better pay and better hours, the source said.

The employee had full training and routinely took overnight corrections officer shifts to earn overtime pay, this source said.

Two sources familiar with the case told NBC News that investigators are looking to see if there are discrepancies in the log books compared to what is on the prison surveillance camera system.

The guards were supposed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes, but the sources said there was a gap of several hours before Epstein was found in his cell.

An "after action" team from the federal Bureau of Prisons will be at the jail Wednesday to examine what went wrong, as is required after any "significant event" at a federal prison, a Department of Justice official said Tuesday.

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A team of Bureau of Prisons psychologists began looking at all of the circumstances to determine why Epstein apparently died by suicide, the official said, adding that the after-action team was responsible for analyzing why Epstein would have taken his life, not how.

Epstein, 66, wasn't on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation have told NBC News.

Attorney General William Barr has said that he was "appalled" by the development and that he has consulted with the Justice Department's inspector general, who is also investigating.

Alex Johnson contributed.