Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) would take over an investigation into the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office‘s handling of a controversial work release program back in 2008.
Accused child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was granted work release after facing state charges over allegedly molesting several underage girls.
The program, operated under Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, saw Epstein unsupervised for hours at a time, according to deputy logs. Questions have been raised as to whether Epstein used that time to further abuse young girls.
The news from Gov. DeSantis comes after Sen. Lauren Book called for the investigation to be turned over to the FDLE. Previously, Sheriff Bradshaw and his office had announced they would launch an investigation into the program.
Book had even gone so far as to launch a petition through the website of her nonprofit, Lauren’s Kids, to push for the FDLE to investigate. Lauren’s Kids is aimed at helping child sexual abuse survivors.
Following Book’s request, DeSantis had said to be considering the move. On Tuesday, he cited a letter from Sheriff Bradshaw requesting the case be transferred as his motivation to hand it off to FDLE.
“Floridians expect and deserve a full and fair investigation,” DeSantis said.
“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.
DeSantis also said the investigation would cover more than just the work release program.
“In addition, FDLE will conduct a preliminary inquiry into matters beyond the work release and into other irregularities concerning the case’s disposition,” DeSantis added.
“I have also re-assigned the case to the State Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.”
The Governor’s office also provided a copy of the letter from Sheriff Bradshaw, where he agreed the case should be moved elsewhere.
“Given the recent questions that have been raised around the Jeffrey Epstein case, I am formally requesting that FDLE assume the existing criminal investigation and I pledge the cooperation and participation of my agency,” the letter reads.
“I believe the public interest would be best served by an FDLE-led investigation examining every aspect of the Epstein case, from court sentencing to incarceration. My agency will continue with the on-going internal affairs investigation.”
Epstein faced state charges back in 2008 after the Southern District of Florida, run by then-U. S. Attorney Alex Acosta, declined to pursue federal charges.
Epstein has since been arrested on child trafficking charges, filed by the Southern District of New York. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.