Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill approving the release of records related to the first investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.
The Republican traveled to Palm Beach to sign HB 117, which will open access to the 2006 grand jury that resulted in a criminal charge against the disgraced financier that many called questionably lenient.
“There were a lot of questions about what happened when you had a good deal… This should have been done a long time ago, but again, we feel like we can’t just turn a blind eye,” said DeSantis, who was accompanied by two of Epstein. victims, Haley Robson and Jena-Lisa Cordovez.
“What happened was clearly wrong and the punishment was simply totally inappropriate for the crime.”
The bill, passed unanimously by the state Legislature last week, will take effect July 1. However, the records could be released sooner as part of a Palm Beach Post lawsuit.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to Palm Beach to sign HB 117, which will open access to the 2006 grand jury that resulted in a criminal charge against Jeffrey Epstein.
The bill would open access to the first investigation into Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors. Epstein seen with convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell
Last year, a Florida appeals court opened the door to the possible release of transcripts from the grand jury investigation into the notorious sex trafficker, which ended with prosecutors negotiating a plea deal.
Florida’s treatment of Epstein came under scrutiny in 2018 after a series of Miami Herald articles detailing disagreements that arose beginning in 2005 among law enforcement officials after teenagers and young women told Palm Beach police investigators that Epstein had sexually assaulted them.
Palm Beach police thought they had a strong case to file sexual assault charges against Epstein, but Krischer and his prosecutors disagreed, saying Epstein’s lawyers would have avenues to attack the victims’ credibility and that it was unlikely a conviction.
A grand jury heard the case but no indictment was returned.
Meanwhile, Palm Beach police took their evidence to federal prosecutors, who threatened to file charges until a deal was reached in June 2008.
“This should have been done a long time ago, but, once again, we feel like we can’t just turn a blind eye,” said DeSantis, who was accompanied by two of Epstein’s victims.
Palm Beach authorities investigated Epstein between 2005 and 2006 after teenage girls and young women told investigators that the billionaire financier had sexually assaulted them at his Palm Beach mansion, which has since been demolished.
Epstein then pleaded guilty to state charges of recruiting a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He was sentenced to 18 months in the Palm Beach County jail system, followed by 12 months of house arrest and required to register as a sex offender.
The financier was 66 when he committed suicide in a New York City federal jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors accused him of paying hundreds of dollars to underage girls for massages at his homes in Florida and New York, where he then abused them.
In 2019, just days before Epstein committed suicide, DeSantis ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over the investigation into how state employees handled the Epstein case.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it found no evidence that Jeffrey Epstein received special treatment.
In 2021, Florida detectives cleared Palm Beach prosecutors and sheriff’s officials of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with their handling of the sex offender.
Both the state attorney’s office and the sheriff had been criticized by Epstein’s victims and their advocates for the sentencing deal he received and for his participation in a work release program that allowed him to travel to his office most days for up to 16 hours, where possibly involved in the sexual abuse of underage girls.
In three separate reports, Florida investigators wrote that they found no evidence that any deputy sheriff, former state attorney Barry Krischer or any of his prosecutors “were coerced, bribed or engaged in any criminal activity in the performance of their duties.” .
While in the custody of the Palm Beach sheriff, Epstein was allowed to remain in an isolated cell in the county’s minimum-security stockade, where he roamed freely and watched television.
State investigators said in a 2021 report that isolating him was a prudent decision, saying it was made to protect Epstein from other inmates and prevent him from using his wealth to become “king of the dorm.”
Epstein was also soon allowed into the county’s work release program. During that time, they took him to his office, where he claimed to be running his financial consulting business and his foundation.
At the time of his release, he spent six days a week and 18 hours a day in his office. He was asked to wear an ankle monitor and hire two assistants to monitor his whereabouts from the lobby, but they were not in his office with him.
A woman who was 17 at the time and another woman, who was an adult at the time, said they were taken to Epstein’s office during that time to have sex for money with him.
Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2021 of luring girls to his homes to be sexually abused.