Ex-cop cellmate claims to have saved Jeffrey Epstein from hanging, source says
By STEPHEN REX BROWN AND ROCCO PARASCANDOLA | New York Daily News | Published: July 27, 2019
NEW YORK (Tribune News Service) — Jeffrey Epstein’s cellmate — a former cop charged with quadruple murder — told authorities he came to the multimillionaire’s rescue after he attempted to hang himself, alerting correction officers and possibly saving his life, a source told the New York Daily News on Friday.
A law enforcement source confirmed that the cellmate, Nicholas Tartaglione, claimed to have helped Epstein after finding him unconscious. Investigators were still trying to determine if an assault had occurred or if the sex offender facing up to 45 years in prison had in fact tried to take his own life, the law enforcement source said.
“You’ve got a guy who is a millionaire who is now living among rats and mold and wants to go home,” the source said.
“This is a disgusting place and the people there, they treat you disgusting. Who wouldn’t be suicidal in that kind of place? You have a silver spoon in your mouth and then you’re put in a cesspool.”
Bruce Barket, a lawyer for Tartaglione, refused to go into detail about the incident but did not dispute the account.
Epstein, 66, appeared to have genuinely believed he was going to get bail and return to his $77 million Upper East Side mansion, a source previously told the Daily News.
He was found on the floor of his jail cell with bruises on his neck early this week while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, sources said Thursday.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty. One of his attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
Barket said that contrary to reports that Tartaglione inflicted harm on Epstein in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center, the two cellmates get along just fine.
“They became more than cordial,” Barket said. “In the short time they were together, they became friends.”
The source also insisted that Tartaglione, 51, had nothing to do with Epstein’s injuries.
“The guy is on suicide watch. You don’t go on suicide watch if you’ve been assaulted, do you?” the source said.
The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to an inquiry.
The multimillionaire sex offender and accused killer cop bunked together for roughly two weeks, sources said.
The cell had no windows, standing water, rodents and insects, Barket said during a hearing in White Plains earlier this week on conditions Tartaglione was enduring in the SHU.
Tartaglione — a former Briarcliff Manor cop facing the death penalty for the alleged kidnapping and murder of four people in 2016 — was in the SHU because earlier this month correction officers found a cellphone in his cell in general population. Epstein was there because, according to The Daily Beast, he’d been threatened by other inmates after his arrest for alleged sex trafficking of underage girls as young as 14.
The conditions in the cell were deplorable, Barket said.
“About a week ago, (Tartaglione) woke up, got up, looked down at his cot and apparently he smothered, unbeknownst to him, a rodent that was dead on his cot,” the attorney said, according to a transcript from the Monday hearing in White Plains District Court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold said at the hearing that MCC staff wondered whether the rat was a Godfather-style warning and had “concerns that it was put there by a cell mate, perhaps as some kind of message.” But Tartaglione’s lawyer assured them there was no tension.
“Mr. Barket assured that it seems they’re getting along fine, so that that’s not the issue,” Swergold said.
Tartaglione has complained about conditions at the jail for years since being arrested in 2016. He’d pleaded for books to read and batteries for a radio in the SHU, which Barket said prompted a frightening warning from a staffer named Lt. Rice.
“Stop complaining or it’s gonna get worse,” Rice told Tartaglione, according to Barket.
“After that, what the facility did is, they brought officers down, searched every cell in his tier except for his, searched every inmate on the tier except for Mr. Tartaglione, and then marched Mr. Tartaglione, around, asking him to point out the conditions that we had complained of in court.”
The stunt appeared to be an effort to put Tartaglione in the crosshairs of his fellow inmates. Fortunately, Barket told the judge, he faced no further retribution.
Still, the conditions had taken a toll. Tartaglione often has no way of knowing what time of day it is. He struggles to concentrate and analyze important evidence in his case, Barket said.
“He is so emotionally and physically depleted he doesn’t have the energy or the motivation to discuss it,” he said.
“It’s borderline torture.”
The jail is famous for its tight security and notorious inmates, who have included terrorists, Wall Street schemers and, until recently, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
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