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Judge may hold federal jail brass in contempt after Jeffrey Epstein’s cellmate claimed to be threatened

2019-08-22

Nick Tartaglione (Obtained by New York Daily News)

A frustrated federal judge hinted Wednesday he might hold jail officials in contempt after Jeffrey Epstein’s former cellmate said he received threats from Metropolitan Correctional Center staff.

Nick Tartaglione, who is facing the death penalty for quadruple murder, has long complained about conditions at the troubled federal lockup in lower Manhattan. His attorney Bruce Barket said the federal probes into Epstein’s death had left Tartaglione in a “vulnerable position.”

“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 in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

“My client shouldn’t have to fear for his life.”

In one instance, guards told Tartaglione to “tell your lawyer to shut up” about conditions at MCC, according to Barket.

Judge Kenneth Karas said he would hold contempt hearings if MCC isn’t able to ensure Tartaglione’s safety. The judge said the jail’s legal team gave assurances that were not carried out by staff.

“The status quo really isn’t acceptable. Factually there is a disconnect. There just seems to be problems implementing what MCC legal says they’re going to do,” Karas said.

"I’ll start having hearings and I’ll start throwing around contempt and so on and so forth.“

Tartaglione, 51, a former Briarcliff Manor cop, claims to have saved Epstein’s life following his first hanging attempt, sources previously told the Daily News. His brief run-in with Epstein raised his profile and helped his complaints reach a broader audience. The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General are probing Epstein’s hanging on Aug. 10.

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Karas proposed moving Tartaglione to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold said Tartaglione had previously been transferred out of that jail because of a disciplinary issue.

“If the answer (from MDC) really is ‘No, and by the way you don’t have the authority to order he be transferred to MDC’ — which I’d be curious to read that authority — then we’re going to have to make life very uncomfortable for MCC officials," Karas said.