State Sen. Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is calling for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for its handling of alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein‘s work release.
Book, a Plantation Democrat, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday. She’s the founder of Lauren’s Kids, which educates children and families about preventing sexual abuse, and supports survivors.
Epstein had pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges in Florida which netted him just 13 months in jail. Most of that time was spent on supervised release, in which Epstein was allowed to leave during the day for work.
Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said he’s launching an internal investigation “into whether his department properly monitored the wealthy financier,” according to the AP, after reports Epstein had “sexual contacts” with young women in his office while on work release.
Moreover, many experts have called the plea deal too lenient. A Miami Herald investigation detailed the machinations behind it, made despite Epstein being accused of having sex with several underage girls.
Now, Epstein – already a registered sex offender – has since been arrested again and indicted on child sex trafficking charges by federal prosecutors in New York.
“The allegations related to Jeffrey Epstein assaulting young girls while serving on work release under the jurisdiction of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) are alarming,” Book wrote. “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,” she added. “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.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not respond to a request for comment.
The allegation regarding sex while on work release was made July 16 by attorney Bradley Edwards, who represents several of Epstein’s accusers.
The actual head of FDLE is the Governor and Florida Cabinet, made up of the Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture. (The department’s Commissioner, also called an Executive Director, is appointed by the Governor, with approval from the Cabinet, and confirmed by the Senate. The position is currently held by Rick Swearingen.)
“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,” Book wrote.
“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.”
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw on Friday announced an internal affairs investigation into the Epstein matter.
“Sheriff Ric Bradshaw shares Senator Book’s concerns. That is why he has ordered an internal investigation to determine if in fact the system failed 11 years ago and hold those accountable for any failures and ensure that it won’t happen again,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said in an email Tuesday.
In a case that has drawn international attention, Epstein is facing sex-trafficking charges involving minors in Florida and New York. A federal judge in New York denied a request for bail last week.
Epstein previously served 13 months of an 18-month sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2008 on two state prostitution charges in Florida, including procuring a minor for sex. The plea required him to register as a sex offender.
While in custody, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, according to the Miami Herald, which has done extensive reporting on Epstein. After more than three months in custody, Epstein was provided work release for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, the Herald reported.
Book equated the need to investigate the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s actions with how the state investigated the actions of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.
The letter as delivered is below.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.