A grand jury indictment accused Tova Noel and Michael Thomas of neglecting their duties by failing to perform checks on Epstein every half hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to show they had. The developments occurred the same day as an oversight hearing on the Department of Justice's probe into the circumstances surrounding Epstein's Aug. 10 death, which New York City's chief medical examiner has ruled a suicide.
Thomas' attorney Montell Figgins told FOX Business his client, who has worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than 10 years, planned to plead not guilty.
“We believe that it’s a rush to judgment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that they decided to charge the lowest-level employees on the totem pole for significant system failures by the Bureau of Prisons," he said, adding that his client is "doing great and he’s ready to fight this case and to expose the system that is trying to take away his livelihood.”
Epstein, a previously convicted sex offender, had been arrested in July on charges related to the sex trafficking of minors and was being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City when he was discovered hanging from strips of orange bed sheets.
The guards, who were working overtime because of staffing shortages when Epstein's body was found, were placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department's Inspector General investigate.
“Any allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the agency and will be responded to appropriately," Bureau of Prisons director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer said in a statement. "I am committed to this agency and am confident we will restore the public’s trust in us."
In a statement after the arrests, Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who has urged thorough reviews of the matter, said "[h]eads needed to roll the day Jeffrey Epstein died."
"The Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice need to start giving the public some answers. These arrests are important, but they’re not the end of this: These guards aren’t the only ones who should stand trial -- every one of Jeffrey Epstein’s co-conspirators should be spending the rest of their lives behind bars.”
During Tuesday's oversight hearing, Sawyer told Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the FBI is involved in the probe and is "looking at criminal enterprise."
Meanwhile, a forensic pathologist hired by the executors of Epstein’s estate has questioned the New York medical examiner's findings in Epstein's death, pointing to several fractures that indicate a more sinister chain of events.
The criminal charges against Epstein were dropped after his death, though authorities are still investigating potential co-conspirators. Several accusers have filed civil lawsuits against the financier's estate.
FOX News producers Jake Gibson and Marta Dhanis, chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.