Jeffrey Epstein’s former cellmate proclaimed “I never touched the man” in a letter to the Daily News Thursday as a probe into the multimillionaire perv’s suicide continues.
Nick Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor cop facing the death penalty for quadruple murder, insisted in a two-page handwritten note that he shared a cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center with Epstein because he posed no threat to the accused sex trafficker of underage girls.
“As far as Jeff Epstein is concerned, I never touched the man. I despise anyone who hurts children but whatever was going to happen him, I was not going to be a part of it,” Tartglione, 51, wrote. “The prison told Epstein they were putting him in a cell with me because they knew I would neither hurt nor extort him. The staff here at MCC had hundreds of inmates to choose from yet I was their first choice.”
Epstein’s first attempted suicide on July 23 in the cell he shared with Tartaglione. Sources previously told The News that Tartaglione believed he may have saved Epstein’s life by quickly alerting jail staff to the attempted hanging.
Epstein, 66, was moved to suicide watch, separating him from Tartaglione. Sources said at the time that investigators were trying to determine whether Tartaglione had assaulted Epstein.
The sex offender was subsequently taken off of suicide watch and hanged himself on Aug. 10 in a cell he occupied alone. He was awaiting trial on charges that carried a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
“At or around the time of his death we did not see a despairing or despondent person,” Epstein’s attorney Reid Weingarten said at a recent hearing for the financier’s victims.
The probe of how the perv with powerful friends managed to kill himself includes an examination of the first attempt, prosecutors have said in court. Tartaglione’s attorney Bruce Barket said he has not been interviewed by investigators since Epstein’s death.
“(Tartaglione) has not been questioned by any law enforcement official since July 23,” Barket said.
“I can’t imagine how they can claim a complete investigation without speaking to the person who was in the cell in that first event.”
A spokesman for the Southern District of New York declined comment.
Attorney General William Barr said “irregularities” have been uncovered at the nightmarish lockup. The jail staff on duty at the time of Epstein’s hanging were reportedly exhausted from working multiple overtime shifts and failed to follow protocol. The MCC is also coping with longstanding staff shortages.
“I still have some faith in the justice system,” Tartaglione wrote. “Every person in this country has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. To anyone who reads this I only ask for that presumption because I haven’t felt it yet in the past 33 months.”
Tartaglione, who has long complained about conditions at MCC, is seeking to be transferred to another federal lockup due to threats he says were made by jail staff after Epstein’s suicide.
“It just doesn’t seem appropriate that he be housed and guarded by the very people who are under investigation given his proximity to the investigation,” Barket said at a recent hearing.
“My client shouldn’t have to fear for his life.”
The attorney said he did not know his client had sent the letter until after it was in the mail. “It’s a product of the frustration at the entire situation,” Barket said.
The musclebound ex-cop is charged with killing Martin Luna, 41, Hector Santiago, 32, Miguel Luna, 25, and Hector Gutierrez, 43, in April 2016, as well as conspiring to distribute over five kilos of cocaine. Prosecutors say two of the victims had ties to a Mexican drug cartel.
The four men’s bodies were found buried on Tartaglione’s sprawling animal rescue farm in Otisville, Orange County. Tartaglione has been locked up since December 2016 and still does not have a trial date.