Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to take over from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office as the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein‘s plea deal, including a criticized work release agreement, continues.
Epstein, a financier and registered sex offender, was arrested last month on federal charges for sex trafficking of minors in two states including Florida. He served time more than a decade ago in Florida for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution and served 13 months which included work release despite officials finding more than 30 victims. Epstein received a plea deal from then U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta. Last month, Acosta resigned as U.S. Secretary of Labor after drawing fire for the deal he offered Epstein.
After getting a letter from Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw on the matter, on Tuesday, DeSantis issued an Executive Assignment of the case from Palm Beach County to the State Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit. DeSantis also asked the FDLE to look into previous investigations of Epstein and the plea agreement.
“Floridians expect and deserve a full and fair investigation,” said DeSantis. “Following my review of Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s letter, I am requesting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over his criminal investigation pertaining to the Jeffrey Epstein matter. In addition, FDLE will conduct a preliminary inquiry into matters beyond the work release and into other irregularities concerning the case’s disposition. I have also re-assigned the case to the State Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.”
State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, herself a victim of a sexual predator in her youth, wrote DeSantis on the matter towards the end of last month.
“The allegations related to serial sex predator Jeffrey Epstein assaulting young girls while serving on work release under the jurisdiction of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) are alarming. If true, this shows yet another breakdown of the system’s dealing with this pedophilic abuser. We are calling for accountability on all fronts and to that end, I am formally requesting for you to direct the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate this matter,” Book wrote DeSantis on Monday.
“When an atrocity occurs in our state and there is a breakdown involving law enforcement, I believe it is appropriate for FDLE to step in and investigate,” Book continued. “FDLE investigated the Broward County Sheriff’s Office response to the massacre at Stoneman Douglas, and I believe an investigation into PBSO’s handling of Epstein while on work release is also necessary and proper. If Epstein was able to abuse young girls while under supervised work release, we need to understand very clearly when and how these egregious lapses and abuses occurred so they cannot be repeated.
“Should you have any questions or concerns please contact me directly. I thank you for your urgent attention to this matter,” she wrote in conclusion.
On Tuesday afternoon, Book offered her take on the governor’s actions.
“Despite mounting pressure to back off or stand down, I have maintained that an independent, external investigation into PBSO’s handling of serial sex predator Jeffrey Epstein is both necessary and proper,” Book said. “I thank Governor DeSantis for directing such an investigation through FDLE. Epstein enjoyed an unprecedented and deeply troubling level of leniency and luxury while incarcerated by PBSO. I am disgusted by the flagrant corruption documented within the logs of deputies assigned to supervise Epstein while on work release and deeply disturbed by allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated under PBSO watch. FDLE’s investigation is the first step toward a clear understanding of what happened and who is responsible. We need answers if we want accountability. I now stand available to assist Governor DeSantis and FDLE as they move through what I, the people of Florida, and this country know will be a true independent investigation of what happened here.”
Book is increasingly becoming a leading Democrat in the Sunshine State and there is buzz that she will challenge DeSantis in 2022 or seek higher office in future election cycles.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.