NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday delayed the scheduled trial of two Manhattan jail guards charged with covering up their failure to monitor Jeffrey Epstein on the night he killed himself.
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas now face a June 14, 2021 trial date, five months later than previously planned, after pleading not guilty last November to falsely certifying they conducted inmate counts during Epstein’s final hours.
At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan said a delay would give the defendants and prosecutors more time to discuss a “possible disposition” of the case, which could involve pleas, and ensure a courtroom would be available.
The Manhattan federal court has a backlog of trials because of the coronavirus pandemic, and plans to schedule cases that are older or involve incarcerated defendants sooner.
Noel and Thomas are free on bail.
“The government has represented that they will not be dismissing the case and Ms. Noel has no plans to enter a guilty plea,” Noel’s lawyer Jason Foy said in an email after the hearing.
A lawyer for Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Epstein, the financier and registered sex offender, died at age 66 on Aug. 10, 2019. He was found hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.
Authorities had charged Epstein with trafficking in dozens of women and underage girls. Some alleged victims have said his abuses dated back to the 1980s.
Prosecutors have said that in the hours before Epstein’s death, Noel shopped online for furniture, Thomas surfed the internet for sports news and motorcycle sales, and both appeared to have fallen asleep for about two hours.
Epstein’s death angered U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and prompted a management overhaul at the Manhattan jail.
The case is U.S. v. Noel et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-cr-00830.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)