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AP Exclusive: Feds plan to move Epstein warden to prison job

MICHAEL BALSAMO and MICHAEL R. SISAK

WASHINGTON (AP) — The warden in charge when Jeffrey Epstein ended his life in his jail cell is being moved to a leadership position at another federal correctional facility, putting him back in the field with inmates despite an ongoing investigation into the financier’s death, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The federal Bureau of Prisons is planning to move Lamine N’Diaye to the role at FCI Fort Dix, a low-security prison in Burlington County, New Jersey, the people said. The move comes months after Attorney General William Barr ordered N’Diaye be reassigned to a desk post at the Bureau of Prisons’ regional office in Pennsylvania after Epstein’s death as the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigated.

One of the people said the agency planned to move N’Diaye into the new role on Feb. 2. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal personnel matter.

It was unclear why the agency was planning to return N’Diaye to a position supervising inmates and staff members, even though multiple investigations into Epstein’s death remain active. The inspector general’s investigation is continuing, and the Justice Department is still probing the circumstances that led to Epstein’s death, including why he wasn’t given a cellmate.

Epstein took his own life in August while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

Epstein's suicide cast a spotlight on the Bureau of Prisons and highlighted a series of safety lapses inside a high-security unit of one of the most secure jails in America. Barr said Epstein’s ability to take his own life in federal custody had raised “serious questions that must be answered.” He said in an interview with the AP in November that the investigation revealed a “series” of mistakes made that gave Epstein the chance to take his own life and that his suicide was the result of “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

Two correctional officers responsible for watching Epstein have pleaded not guilty to charges alleging they lied on prison records to make it seem as though they had checked on Epstein, as required, before his death. Instead, investigators say they appeared to sleep for two hours and had been browsing the internet — shopping for furniture and motorcycles — instead of watching Epstein, who was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

The attorney general also removed the agency’s acting director in the wake of Epstein’s death and named Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the prison agency’s director from 1992 until 2003, to replace him.

Since Epstein’s death and N’Diaye’s removal as warden, the Manhattan jail has had two interim leaders. The newest warden, M. Licon-Vitale, used to oversee a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Her first big order of business has been to deal with jailed lawyer Michael Avenatti’s complaints about his treatment at the lockup.

The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued for years by chronic violence, extensive staffing shortages and serious misconduct.

___

Sisak reported from New York. Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Balsamo at twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1.

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