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AG Bill Barr removes acting Bureau of Prisons director after Epstein death

AG Bill Barr.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Bar has ordered the removal of acting director of the Bureau of Prisons Hugh Hurwitz following the suicide of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in the Manhattan Metropolitan Correctional Center.

The big picture: Barr has previously said there were "serious irregularities" at the MCC and that the Justice Department will ensure that those responsible for the oversight are held accountable. Barr has appointed Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Thomas Kane as deputy director. Hawk Sawyer previously served as director of the bureau from 1992 to 2003.

Catch up quick: Epstein, one of the highest-profile pretrial inmates in the world, was not under suicide watch at the time of his death, despite guards finding him unconscious in his cell from a possible suicide attempt in July.

  • Epstein died just 1 day after newly unsealed documents were made public from a 2015 defamation lawsuit that detailed what his accusers described as a sex-trafficking operation.
  • Barr has directed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to temporarily reassign the warden in charge of the MCC where Epstein was held pending the outcome of a Justice Department and FBI investigation.
  • The BOP also placed 2 staff members assigned to Epstein's unit on leave. Guards are suspected of falling asleep and falsely stating in log books that they checked on inmates every half-hour, AP reports.
  • Epstein's autopsy shows he hanged himself in his cell.

Between the lines: While Epstein's death means victims will not have the chance to face him in court, Barr has made clear that he will be pursuing all parties involved in the financier's alleged trafficking of dozens of underage girls.

  • At a conference last week, Barr stated: "Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it."

Go deeper: What we know about Jeffrey Epstein's life and death