The state’s investigation into how the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office [PBSO] handled Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 “sweetheart deal” work-release program will continue despite the convicted sex offender’s apparent suicide.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in a statement issued to WPTV Saturday said “nothing changes for us” in following through with the probe ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Aug. 6.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in an apparent suicide in his jail cell in Manhattan early Saturday. He was arrested on July 6 after landing in his private jet in New Jersey on federal charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy dating back to 2002, including alleged encounters with underaged girls when he was on PBSO supervised work-release from jail.
He denied the charges and was being held without bail.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last week requested the FDLE investigate the PBSO’s actions in supervising Epstein while he was serving a 13-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to prostitution involving underage girls in Palm Beach County in 2008.
DeSantis responded directly to a request by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for the state to conduct an independent probe, but the governor was under pressure from Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who had launched a petition drive demanding he do so.
“In life and in death, Jeffrey Epstein did everything he could to escape accountability and silence survivors. And he didn’t do it alone. All the money in the world can’t erase the truth,” Book said in a statement Saturday.
“While some answers died with Jeffrey Epstein,” she continued, “there are still questions to be asked and individuals to be held accountable. So for those who assisted Epstein and for those who took part in his sick criminal acts, we shall pursue justice every single day until every last criminal has been caught – justice will not be denied.”
Attorneys representing Epstein’s alleged victims also issued statements Saturday affirming they will continue to press their cases against.
"The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is unfortunate, yet predictable,” said attorney Bradley Edwards. “While we engaged in contentious legal battles for more than a decade, this is not the ending anyone was looking for."
"The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused,” said attorney Jack Scarola. “We will continue to represent his victims and will not stop in their pursuit of finality and justice.”
Attorney General William Barr Saturday said the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General would investigate how Epstein managed to kill himself while in federal custody.
U.S. Sen Rick Scott called Epstein a “coward” while U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, called for a Congressional probe into his death.
"The death of Jeffrey Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence,” Frankel said in a statement. “With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Reform begin its investigation immediately.”
Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution involving underage girls in Palm Beach County in 2008.
As part of a plea deal, he was allowed out on work-release, 12 hours a day, six days a week, with his own driver picking him up and taking him to a West Palm Beach office, while completing his 13-month jail sentence in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail.
Epstein’s plea deal included a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors approved by then-U.S. Attorney in Miami Alex Acosta, despite an FBI probe that found more victims and evidence compiled in a 53-page indictment and the objections of federal prosecutor Maria Villafaña.
Acosta resigned as President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary in July when details surfaced of his decision to cut Epstein a federal non-prosecution deal, shielding him from further federal charges related to sexual misconduct with underage girls.