U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday shook up the leadership at the federal Bureau of Prisons, removing its acting chief following the suicide of financier Jeffrey Epstein in a New York City jail.
Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a veteran of the Bureau of Prisons, will return to the agency to serve as its director, Barr said. He named another former agency official, Thomas Kane, to serve as her deputy.
The Bureau of Prisons has about 37,000 employees and oversees 122 facilities, which house about 180,000 inmates.
Hugh Hurwitz, who had been acting chief since May 2018, was reassigned to his prior post as director of the bureau's re-entry services division.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14.
He died on Aug. 10, when he was found unresponsive in his jail cell. An autopsy report released on Friday concluded he committed suicide by hanging.
Prosecutors asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss the criminal case against Epstein, a standard procedure when a defendant dies. The dismissal has no effect on their investigation into people who may have conspired with Epstein.
The government "remains committed to doing its utmost to stand up for the victims who have already come forward, as well as for the many others who have yet to do so," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a letter to the judge.
Epstein's death at the age of 66 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan triggered multiple investigations and had prompted Barr to criticize "serious irregularities" at the facility.
"During this critical juncture, I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill, and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers," Barr said in a statement.
Barr previously ordered the reassignment of the warden at the MCC. Two corrections officers assigned to Epstein's unit were placed on administrative leave pending investigations.
Lawyers for Epstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
His lawyers had said in a statement last week that they were"not satisfied" with the medical examiner's conclusions and planned to carry out their own investigation, seeking prison videos taken around the time of his death.
Epstein had been on suicide watch at the jail but was taken off prior to his death, a source who was not authorized to speak on the matter previously told Reuters. Two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed, the source added.
Epstein, a registered sex offender who once socialized with U.S. President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2008 to Florida state charges of unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex and was sentenced to 13 months in a county jail, a deal widely criticized as too lenient.
Senator Ben Sasse, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, has urged Barr to void the agreement and said that "heads must roll" after Epstein's death.
"This is a good start, but it's not the end," Sasse said of Barr's announcement. "Jeffrey Epstein should still be in a padded cell and under constant surveillance, but the justice system has failed Epstein's victims at every turn."© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.