News & Commentary

Jeffrey Epstein’s Former Cellmate Convicted in 2016 Quadruple Murder Case

He is the person who reportedly "alerted guards" to Epstein's first alleged "suicide attempt." Shortly before the trial, AG Merrick Garland directed prosecutors to drop their pursuit of the death penalty. One of those prosecutors is the daughter of former FBI director James Comey.

Nicholas Tartaglionie — the “retired police officer turned drug dealer” who shared a cell with Jeffrey Epstein shortly before his alleged suicide — has been found guilty on all counts stemming from the 2016 “gangland-style” killing of four men in New York state.

He faces life in prison, according to the New York Times, but “maintains his innocence” and will appeal.

“Prosecutors said that Mr. Tartaglione tortured [Martin Luna] and forced one of his nephews to watch as he strangled him with a zip tie,” reports The Times. “He and two associates then took the other men to the woods where they shot them and buried them in a mass grave.”

Tartaglione & Epstein

Tartaglione is the person who reportedly “alerted guards” of Epstein’s first alleged “suicide attempt” on July 23, 2019, which got Epstein temporarily put on “suicide watch.”

From the the same NYT article (bolded added here and throughout):

After his arrest, Mr. Tartaglione shared a cell for a time with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier jailed on sex trafficking charges. Mr. Tartaglione alerted guards to a suicide attempt by Mr. Epstein in 2019, his lawyer said at the time.

After that incident, Mr. Epstein accused Mr. Tartaglione of assaulting him, a charge that Mr. Tartaglione denied. A prison official said at the time that Mr. Epstein’s story appeared to be an attempt to avoid being put on suicide watch. He killed himself less than a month later.

At the time of the incident, it was indeed widely reported that Tartaglione may have actually attacked Epstein:

However, less than a week after Epstein’s alleged “suicide” on August 10, 2019, Tartaglione was “cleared of any wrongdoing,” and the tape of the incident was later reported to have been “inadvertently” deleted:

In a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas related to a case involving Jeffrey Epstein’s former cellmate, prosecutors admitted that the Metropolitan Correctional Center has lost the surveillance video outside Epstein’s cell from July 23, the night of his first apparent suicide attempt. Prison authorities state that they “inadvertently” deleted the footage from outside the cell of Epstein and former cellmate Nicholas Tartaglione, saving over it with tapes from another tier of the facility. “As a result, video from outside the defendant’s cell … no longer exists,” prosecutors wrote, adding that there is no backup system on which it is saved.

NY Mag’s Intelligencer, Jan 9, 2020

No Death Penalty

Tartaglione was originally facing the death penalty for the murders that had landed him in prison with Epstein in the first place — the ones that he was just convicted of.

However, as noted earlier, this week’s NYT article says that he “faces life in prison.”

That’s because, as The Times explains:

Prosecutors said last year that they would not pursue the death penalty for Mr. Tartaglione, at the direction of Attorney General Merrick Garland.

A story by The Journal News in December announcing the decision said that “no reason was given” by Garland’s DOJ:

Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday they were no longer seeking the death penalty against former Briarcliff Manor police Officer Nicholas Tartaglione in the slayings of four Orange County men six years ago.

The announcement came in court during a discussion about how to handle jury selection at Tartaglione’s upcoming trial. Prosecutors got an email about the decision by Department of Justice officials in Washington to withdraw the notice of intent seeking the death penalty, defense lawyer Bruce Barket said later.

No reason was given, but Tartaglione’s defense team in May presented an extensive mitigation package to the Justice Department urging that he no longer face capital punishment.

Tartaglione’s defense team, meanwhile, “never made public the personal details for why the death penalty was inappropriate,” according to The Journal News, but had apparently filed “an extensive motion” in mid-2020 citing the alleged “loss of video footage” as a reason:

“Obviously we agree with the decision. We did not think death was an appropriate punishment here,” Barket said, adding that Tartaglione has always maintained his innocence and hopes to be vindicated at trial.

Barket never made public the personal details for why the death penalty was inappropriate in Tartaglione’s case. On Tuesday, he said the issue was no longer relevant. (…)

In court documents this summer, the defense filed an extensive motion asking U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas not to allow the death penalty. It included the loss of video footage from the Metropolitan Correctional Center when Tartaglione’s cellmate, financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, first tried to kill himself in late July 2019.

Tartaglione called for help and his defense team argued that jurors seeing Tartaglione’s efforts and not just hearing about them would have been powerful mitigation against the death penalty.

Epstein committed suicide three weeks later when Tartaglione was no longer his cellmate.

Maurene Comey

As it turns out, one of the prosecutors on the Tartaglione case was — as noted by The Journal News this week — none other than Maurene Comey, the daughter of former FBI director James Comey.

She was reported as such on the DOJ website as far back as December of 2016: “Assistant United States Attorneys Maurene Comey and Michael Gerber are in charge of the prosecution.”

According to her LinkedIn, Comey finished her undergrad in 2010, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2013. She was later reported to be 32 years old as of late 2021.

That means she would have been about 26 years old when she became Assistant United States Attorney in 2015, and about 27 years old when she was named as co-prosecutor of the Tartaglione case in 2016.

Her father was director of the FBI during that entire period (September 4, 2013 – May 9, 2017).

When Jeffrey Epstein was indicted in 2019, Maurene Comey was named as one of the prosecutors on that case as well. (NY Post, DOJ)

When Epstein’s accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell was charged the following year, Comey was once again named as one of the three lead prosecutors (DOJ).

From Business Insider in 2021:

Comey is currently an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York — one of the most prestigious federal prosecutors’ offices nationwide. (…)

Comey joined the office in 2015, and is listed as one of three lead prosecutors handling the case against Maxwell, along with Assistant US Attorneys Alex Rossmiller and Alison Gainfort Moe.

The three of them also handled the case against Epstein, who was indicted in July 2019 for numerous sex crimes. For the case against Maxwell, they’re joined by Assistant US Attorneys Andrew Rohrbach and Lara Elizabeth Pomerantz.

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For more background on the Tartaglione case, see this Twitter thread from December of 2021 (also available here):

Image Credit: Navin75 (CC BY-SA 2.0). May be modified from original.