What do Jeffrey Epstein, Paul Manafort, and Michael Avenatti all have in common (besides Donald Trump)? They’ve all been inmates at the infamous MCC prison (yes that one, where Epstein was found dead), within the past year. What do Epstein and Manafort doubly have in common? An inmate named William “Dollar Bill” Mersey.
Last Friday, January 24th, Mr. Mersey joined the show for a fascinating look into his life behind bars with Epstein and Manafort, as well as to speak to what life is like for Michael Avenatti as he awaits his trial at the same facility.
William Mersey owned an adult advertising agency and an escort website. He ended up in prison because he did not pay taxes on the money he made through those ventures. Mersey was sentenced for tax fraud and sent to MCC to serve his time.
How does a white collar criminal like William Mersey end up in MCC? According to Mersey, he was there for three reasons. The first being that he had a state charge in addition to the federal charge. “Just a tag team. And the state court was 500 yards away. They knew they would have to move me and thats difficult to move inmate from federal prison to appearance at state court.” Second, he was short timer, and the third was that he was local “I lived a mile and half away from the prison.” Mersey says that the worst thing about MCC was not the staff but the inmates. There are a lot of gangbanger and gunslingers but not a lot of white collar criminals.
Mersey says the place at MCC that he really wanted to avoid was the Special Housing Unit called the “SHU” (pronounced shoe). The SHU houses inmates that violate prison rules; new arrivals not yet cleared for general population, and inmates in protective custody. The latter of which was Epstein’s designation — considered a “suicidal inmate”. In cases such as his, prison officials often approach inmates (with similar convictions/charges) in the hopes they might be able to help entertain the suicidal and help them find a way to make life worth living.
Mersey says the two spoke mostly about investments, and how he got himself in trouble in the escort industry. They never talked about Epstein’s alleged crimes “because he was a suicide inmate. It wasn’t my role to depress him.”
Asked if Epstein appeared to be a guy that was going to kill himself Mersey says he did not see that. “He was an average normal guy, not a whiner, not a prima donna. He ate his food, didn’t complain. He was not a dark character. He had that Ted Bundy thing going for him. He tried to kill himself while I was in there. Epstein wanted to bunk with me, but they wouldn’t let him. I would have bunked with Epstein because he wasn’t a killer…” Speaking to Epstein’s crimes and how he was viewed in prison society, Mersey said the fact they were post-pubescent girls made a difference. It would have been another thing entirely had they been pre-pubescent.
But even with that knowledge, Mersey says all Jeffrey wanted to talk about was how he was going to navigate prison. “He was scared to death about inmates.” He would ask “do I need a big black guy to protect me? I told him dude, just stand up look people in the eyes. It’s not that bad here.” He was apprehensive about dealing with the prison population. Mersey said that Epstein did go into gen-pop once and was extorted immediately, and requested protective custody.
Asked if Epstein ever brought up politics? Mersey says he never did, but he did ask Epstein for anecdotes – most of which you can read in the Daily Mail piece. One anecdote, however that he recalled for us was, as he put it. “emblematic of Donald Trump’s essence.” Epstein tells him, “We were flying in my private plane from NYC to Miami. And I had a French girl with me, and Donald said why don’t we land in Atlantic City so I can show your friend my casino? And Jeffrey said I’m not landing in Atlantic City it’s all white trash down there. And the French girl asks what is white trash? And Donald says it’s me without money.”
Asked if Epstein ever talked about Clinton. Mersey says he recalled an anecdote about the former POTUS, although it was too offensive to tell it over public airwaves. You can find that one in the Daily Mail article as well.
As for Epstein’s suicide, Mersey says: “I don’t think anyone killed him but himself.”
Mersey went on to explain to Sharp and Shapiro that he had a friend who he worked with in the kitchen, who had the cell next to Epstein in the SHU.
This inmate tried to setup a drug deal on trulincs which is a monitored email program for inmate use. He got caught and thrown in the SHU next to Epstein. He was in the cell next to Epstein’s the night that Epstein is said to have committed suicide. Mersey’s kitchen friend told him that he had heard “Jeffrey tearing up sheets that night and that nobody came in or out of the unit — including the officers. They did not come and check anything.” Mersey added that this guy had no agenda. “He came out and said I’m back and by the way let me tell you about Jeffrey Epstein… Nobody killed him. He killed himself.”
When asked if he thinks the SHU drove Epstein to suicide Mersey said that was his first impression. He thought Epstein probably couldn’t stand it in there. The SHU is not just confining, it’s loud — all night noise. The worst of the worst in the prison were housed in the SHU.
Epstein wasn’t the only infamous inmate that Mersey interacted with during his stay at MCC. In fact, one of his “bunkies” ended up being none other than Paul Manafort. Given his interactions with two of the most infamous inmates of recent memory, the guys asked William what was going through his mind at the time — it had to be a little crazy.
But Mersey says he was used to high profile guys there. Nicholas Gibson, an inmate who had infamously beheaded his lawyer, and claimed he had 32 bodies – is someone he had interactions with. Mersey says of the killer that he was “the most normal acting and sounding person” but described him as an alt-personality and a sort of evil hipster. Mersey adds that in the real world Gibson was apprehended by police “300 yards from my front door.” So guys like Manafort and Epstein, that was understandably more manageable.
As for Manfort, Mersey laughed. “I was lying in my bunk reading when along comes the assistant warden and the bubble officer. My previous bunkmate had been sent home. He said how about I move Rob from across the hall in here? Cause the devil you know…” (much rather room with a con like Manafort than murderer like Gibson). Mersey says he was hand-picked to be Manafort’s bunk mate.
When asked about his interactions with Manafort, Mersey claims that “Pauly” emphatically said there was “no Russian collusion whatsoever.” But he felt like Manafort told himself that so many times that he believed it — “enough so that he could pass a lie detector test.” Mersey says that one of the more interesting things about Manafort was that he stood the intimidators down, while Epstein did not. Manafort would say “Listen I grew up in the streets just like you….” Mersey says that Manafort thought Michael Cohen was not a bright guy, not a pit-bull, and not a good lawyer.
When Sharp and Shapiro asked why Trump would pick him (Cohen) then? Mersey says it was simple: it’s because Cohen would do his bidding.
Mersey’s other impression of Manafort was that he was mostly in denial. He didn’t own his crimes. “I knew exactly what Paul Manafort did because we had similar crimes. They put two birds of a feather together.” Mersey claims that Manafort took a lot of pills. “He had a battery of medications. He wasn’t hobbling around, he wasn’t in-firmed, he did have a lot of medications. And a cellmate? He snored a lot. Refined guy, wake up in middle of night, read the bible. We talked American History a lot.”
Michael Avenatti is also currently serving time at MCC. He’s in protective custody there, thus he is in the SHU. The prison, already in the news for the Epstein death, cannot afford another high profile inmate passing away. Thus they are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.
Sharp asked what it says about the facility that people would rather be out in general population than in the SHU?
“The SHU is bad everywhere. Not just the MCC. You don’t wanna be in protective custody unless you absolutely have to be.” In the case of Avenatti, they don’t need another high profile inmate killing himself or dying in the prison. That wouldn’t work for them — “That’s why they have him in the SHU, and it might be why they keep him there.” Mersey says that if Avenatti’s lawyer is able to get the prison to move him (because conditions are so bad), they will most likely look for an inmate like him for Avenatti to bunk with.
Asked to describe what Michael Avenatti is having to go through, Mersey had this to say:
“He’s cold. Those vents blow cold air 23 hours a day. He probably doesn’t have a sweatshirt or thermals which you really need there. He’s probably huddled under scratchy blankets, and he’s not showering very much. They wont give him a shaver cause guys break open the shavers and hide the razor blades .They do not want him hurting himself. That’s why they have cameras on him.”
As to the rest of his experience at MCC Mersey said inmates can “shower all day”, unless guys yell at them to get out. Personal hygiene is a priority in prison. If a guy stinks guys are gonna let him know… There’s a lot of food, Mersey says guys in the prison and in the SHU eat well. “There’s greasy beef, chicken, soy burger, fish, it’s not bad and you do get a lot of it. And if you work in the kitchen you have so much food you don’t know what to do with it.”
Mersey added that a problem Avenatti has that Manafort didn’t is that Manafort was a sentenced inmate so he could go into the cadre unit, which contains the guys who have already been sentenced, and are thus more civilized because they have an out-date. Michael will have to stay in the pre-trial unit which is where more of the wild animals are compared to the more domesticated, sentenced ones. All the blood that was shed in Mersey’s time in prison was in the pre-trial unit, not in the cadre unit.
Mersey says Avenatti looks like a pretty tough guy, and thinks he’s inconvenienced but not traumatized.
Mersey’s biggest gripe about prison is an understandable one, a point of view that both Sharp and Shapiro agreed with. There’s no reason that nonviolent guys like him should have to serve time alongside with some of the country’s most violent and dangerous criminals (like Nicholas Gibson).
Though he bunked with Manafort, Mersey will not be maintaining any contact with him now that he is out of prison — that would be a parole violation.
Mersey say’s he’s served his time and has no intention of ever returning to prison. But should he ever find his way out to Vegas, he has an open invitation to join our guys in studio.