The death of Jeffrey Epstein was the result of a “perfect storm of screw-ups”, US Attorney General William Barr has said.
His comments came days after two prison officers responsible for guarding Epstein were charged with falsifying records.
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas are accused of sleeping and browsing the internet instead of checking on Epstein, who killed himself in his jail cell 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.
Mr Barr said he initially had his own concerns about Epstein’s death due to numerous irregularities at the Manhattan prison, and as the FBI and Justice Department investigated, he said he realised there were a “series” of mistakes made that gave the financier the chance to take his own life.
“I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Mr Barr said.
His death cast a spotlight on the Bureau of Prisons, which has been plagued by chronic staffing shortages and outbreaks of violence.
The indictment unsealed this week against the officers reveals a damning glimpse of safety lapses inside a high-security unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York.
Mr Barr said federal prosecutors in New York are making good progress while they continue to investigate allegations against Epstein, and he is hopeful people “will see results soon”.
A lawyer for Mr Thomas claimed both guards are being “scapegoated”.
Mr Noel’s lawyer said he hopes to “reach a reasonable agreement” with the government to avoid a trial.