A baseless claim that Attorney General William Barr visited the prison where accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was being held has been circulating online. But the sole source of that claim — a former mob associate — told us he has no idea if Barr went to the prison.
One quote from a New York tabloid has spawned a popular and completely unfounded internet claim that is fueling conspiracy theories about the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in federal prison.
The quote was attributed to Lewis Kasman, 62, an associate of mobster John Gotti in the early 1990s. It appeared at the bottom of a story about the inner workings of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was being held. It said in its entirety:
New York Post, Aug. 11: Kasman said he heard US Attorney General William Barr personally made a hush-hush trip to the MCC two weeks ago, about the time Epstein was found in his cell with bruises around his neck.
“When does that happen?” he asked. “The attorney general never visits jails. Something’s not right there.”
That quote has been magnified and used by other websites that have run misleading headlines, including this one: “Bill Barr Made Secret Visit To Epstein’s Jail Before His ‘Suicide’: Report.” A left-leaning website called US Blues wrote that Barr’s visit, if true, “will fuel rumors that are already circulating that suggest President Donald Trump might have wanted to see Epstein eliminated.”
But the only evidence offered in these stories is the Kasman quote.
Reached by phone on Aug. 12, Kasman said he had no idea if Barr had been to the prison. “First of all, I would have no knowledge of the attorney general going there. He doesn’t check with me. I don’t do his calendar.”
Kasman, who pleaded guilty to perjury in 1994 for lying to a grand jury investigating Gotti, now lives in Delray Beach, Florida. Known as Gotti’s “adopted son,” Kasman set up a garment business “to give Gotti a ‘legitimate’ source of income,” according to the FBI.
Barr did happen to be in New York City on July 23, speaking at a cyber security conference, the day after Epstein reportedly was found injured in his cell and put on suicide watch. But there is no evidence that Barr paid a visit to the Manhattan prison.
Neither the Department of Justice nor the Metropolitan Correctional Center responded to requests for comment.
Update, Aug. 19: The New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office on Aug. 16 publicly reported that, after a “careful review of all investigative information, including complete autopsy findings,” the determined cause of death for Epstein was “hanging” and the manner of death was “suicide.”
Update, Aug. 21: The New York Post has since removed the unfounded claim that Barr visited the prison, saying: “This story has been updated to remove references to a purported visit to the MCC by Attorney General William Barr because the source of the information did not have direct knowledge that the visit took place.”
Kasman, Lewis. Interview with FactCheck.org. 12 Aug 2019.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. John Joseph Gotti, Jr Part 08 of 10. Pg. 176. Accessed 12 Aug 2019.
Hamilton, Brad. “Jeffrey Epstein could have ‘paid’ for help with suicide: Former Gotti pal.” New York Post. 11 Aug 2019.
Perriman, Lance. “Bill Barr Made Secret Visit To Epstein’s Jail Before His ‘Suicide’: Report.” Politicaldig.com. 11 Aug 2019.
“Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Keynote Address at the International Conference on Cyber Security.” Department of Justice. 23 Jul 2019.