Jeffrey Epstein grand jury records from underage girl abuse probe to be released under Florida law

Grand jury transcripts from a 2006 investigation in Florida into Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of dozens of underage girls will be publicly released later this year under legislation signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday. A local judge cited the new law to temporarily refuse the release of the documents.

The measure, which takes effect July 1, would provide a limited exception to the secrecy that typically shrouds grand jury testimony in specific cases like the one involving Epstein, DeSantis said at a signing ceremony in Palm Beach, Florida, where many of the crimes took place in Epstein’s home.

“There needs to be a mechanism in some of these rare circumstances for people to get to the truth,” the Republican governor said. “It is in the interests of justice to make this public. We don’t think we can just turn a blind eye.”

Epstein, a wealthy financier, struck a deal with South Florida federal prosecutors in 2008 that allowed him to escape more serious federal charges and instead plead guilty to state charges of soliciting a person under 18 for prostitution and inviting prostitution. He was sentenced to 18 months in Palm Beach County Jail, followed by 12 months of home confinement. He had to register as a sex offender.

“What happened was clearly wrong and the punishment was completely inadequate for the crime,” DeSantis said.

Epstein was charged in 2018 with federal sex trafficking crimes in New York — where he also had a mansion that was a scene of abuse — after the Miami Herald published a series of articles that renewed public attention to the case, including interviews with some victims who had filed civil lawsuits against him. Epstein was 66 when he killed himself in a New York City jail cell in August 2019, federal officials say.

Epstein’s former girlfriend, socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2021 of luring girls to his homes to be abused.

Haley Robson, who was victimized by Epstein as a 16-year-old high school student in Florida, said she and others like her are grateful for the closure that releasing the grand jury records would bring. The Associated Press generally does not report names of sexual assault victims unless they consent, and Robson appeared at the governor’s news conference to share her thoughts publicly.

“I can’t express enough how we are all so affected by all of this,” Robson said. “This is not something we should forget.”

While some material may still be removed, most grand jury transcripts should be released fairly soon after the new law’s effective date of July 1 as soon as they are petitioned, DeSantis said.

“I don’t think it has to take forever and a day,” the governor said.

On Thursday, citing the new law, a state judge decided not to release the grand jury records as part of a lawsuit filed by The Palm Beach Post and said he would consider any petition requesting it once the law is in place. comes into effect in July. Circuit Judge Luis Delgado said he cannot order the release under current statutes.

“Releasing the documents will not advance justice as our law currently requires,” Delgado wrote in a ruling denying that they would be made public for the time being.

While in the custody of the Palm Beach sheriff’s office, Epstein was allowed to stay in an isolated cell in the county’s minimum-security stockade, where he walked freely and watched television. Epstein was also allowed to participate in the county’s work release program, working from his office at his financial consulting firm and his foundation.

So many questions remain unanswered about how such a lenient sentence was imposed, Robson said.

“Why was Jeffrey Epstein given so much grace and mercy for his inhumane crime?” she said. “It’s going to shed light on what I’ve known all along.”