DOJ: Federal prison official had sexual relationship with ex-prison union chief

USA Today Politics 2 months ago

WASHINGTON–An assistant director of the federal prison system engaged in a sexual and financial relationship with a top prison union executive that included transmitting explicit photographs from the director's agency phone to the union official, an internal Justice Department review concluded Tuesday.

The Justice Department's inspector general also found that the longtime assistant director carried on an inappropriate personal relationship with a Bureau of Prisons contractor and was not truthful with federal investigators when questioned about it.

The prison official and union executive were not named in the brief public report, but officials familiar with the matter identified the assistant director as Judith Garrett, and the union executive as Eric Young, who until last month served as president of the prison workers union.

Investigators concluded that Garrett's relationship with Young was not only inappropriate but "a conflict of interest in violation of federal regulations and BOP policy."

Criminal prosecution of the assistant director was declined, the report stated, though the inspector general has referred its findings to the Department of Labor's inspector general for possible additional review.

Garrett declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.

"There is nothing I can say about it," she said.

Young also declined comment.

In a brief statement, the Bureau of Prisons said the assistant director had been removed from a management position in July 2018.

"The BOP will take appropriate actions in response to the (inspector general's) findings," the agency said in a statement, declining to indicate whether the official remained employed by the agency.

Shane Fausey, who succeeded Young as union president last month, said the inspector general's findings were "a surprise."

"We are convening an emergency meeting of the board right now," Fausey said. "We're going to have to look back at everything to see what related to him (Young) and whether there were conflicts of interest. I want to be clear, he (Young) is the former president."

The inspector general's review represents fresh embarrassment for an agency still reeling from the institutional failures cited in the suicide of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein's death is the subject of at least three federal investigations, involving the FBI, the inspector general and the Bureau of Prisons. Among the areas of focus, authorities have been examining whether guards assigned to Epstein's unit may have slept through checks on the prisoner's cell in the hours before he was found dead, a person familiar with the matter said.

The review of the guards' conduct also will include whether they appropriately accounted for their time on duty, said the person who is not authorized to comment publicly.

At the time of his death, Epstein, 66, was awaiting trial following his indictment on charges of sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy. Federal prosecutors alleged that he "sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes" in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and at other locations from 2002-2005. 

He was found "unresponsive in his cell" in August at the federal detention in Manhattan and transported to nearby New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Attorney General William Barr, who had been sharply critical of bureau operations following Epstein's suicide, did not wait for the results of the multiple internal investigations before naming new leadership at the agency, installing former director, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, to serve another term as the chief of the nation's largest prison system.

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