Florida officials in Jeffrey Epstein investigation cleared of wrongdoing

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Florida law enforcement officials have cleared Palm Beach County prosecutors and sheriff’s officials of criminal wrongdoing in connection with their handling of the investigation into and treatment of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago, according to reports released Monday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in its reports that it found no evidence that Epstein received any special treatment due to bribery or influence by any member of the Palm Beach County sheriff’s or state attorney offices between 2005, when the investigation launched, and 2009, when he was released from jail.

Both the state attorney’s office and sheriff had been criticized by Epstein’s victims and their advocates for the plea and 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 he possibly engaged in the sexual abuse of underage girls, according to past reports, largely by the Miami Herald.

This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein has died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, says person briefed on the matter, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.
(New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

Gov. Ron DeSantis had ordered the investigation in August 2019, just days before Epstein killed himself at a federal jail in New York City.

State investigators concluded that both agencies followed the laws and rules that were then in place in their handling of Epstein. 

In three separate reports that were completed in March, Florida investigators wrote they found no evidence that any sheriff’s deputy, former State Attorney Barry Krischer or any of his prosecutors “was coerced, bribed or engaged in any criminal activity in the performance of their duties.”

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who assumed office in 2005, issued a statement Monday saying he had asked for the investigation and welcomed its findings. He declined further comment, saying an internal investigation into possible violations of agency regulations is ongoing.

Florida’s treatment of Epstein came under scrutiny in 2018 following a series of Miami Herald articles. They detailed the disagreements that surfaced beginning in 2005 among law enforcement officials after teenage girls and young women told Palm Beach police investigators that Epstein had sexually assaulted them. They had agreed to give him massages while semi- or fully nude in exchange for money, but said he would then molest them without their consent.

The Palm Beach police thought they had a strong case to bring sexual assault charges against Epstein, but Krischer and his prosecutors disagreed, saying Epstein’s attorneys would have avenues to attack the victims’ credibility and a conviction was unlikely. A grand jury heard the case, but no indictment was issued.

Palm Beach police, meanwhile, took their evidence to federal prosecutors who threatened to bring charges until an agreement was reached in June 2008. Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of procuring 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. He was required to register as a sex offender.

While in Palm Beach sheriff’s custody, Epstein was allowed to stay in an isolated cell at the county’s minimum security stockade, where he roamed freely and watched television. State investigators said isolating him was a prudent decision, saying it was made to protect Epstein from other inmates and to prevent him from using his wealth to become “king of the dorms.”

Epstein was also soon allowed into the county’s work-release program. During that time, he was taken to his office, where he claimed to be running his financial consulting business and his foundation. By the time of his release, he was spending six days a week and 18 hours a day at his office. He was required to wear an ankle monitor and hire two deputies to oversee his whereabouts from the lobby, but they were not in his office with him.

Epstein was found dead in August 2019 in his jail cell at a federal detention center in Manhattan, New York. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office determined his death was a suicide by hanging. At the time, he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges dating back almost 20 years and was facing life in prison.

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The disgraced financier was known for his wealth and his connections, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump and Prince Andrew of Great Britain. None of them have been charged in connection with his crimes.

His alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, is awaiting trial at a New York City detention center for allegedly recruiting, grooming and trafficking girls to be sexually abused by Epstein and for lying under oath.

Fox News’ Marta Dhanis contributed to this report as did The Associated Press. 

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