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Citing 'black eye' on justice, DeSantis signs bill to unseal secret Jeffrey Epstein files

Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

More than two decades after Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused dozens of girls in Palm Beach, Florida, his victims may finally learn how and why the state prosecutor’s handling of the case allowed Epstein to escape a prison term more in line with the serious crimes he committed.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that permits the unsealing of the long-secret evidence and testimony presented to a 2006 Palm Beach grand jury, leading the panel to return an indictment against Epstein on only minor prostitution charges.

At the time, Palm Beach police had interviewed at least six girls who claimed Epstein had sexually assaulted them as part of a massive scheme in which they were also pressured to recruit more girls for him to abuse over many years.

The signing of the bill could pave the way for the public to evaluate whether former Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer conducted a thorough prosecution of Epstein.

DeSantis noted that the Epstein case — and the plea deal the financier struck with state and later, federal prosecutors — has long been a “black eye” on the nation’s criminal justice system.

“They say justice delayed is justice denied, and this whole situation proves that to be true,” the governor said at a press conference at the Palm Beach County Police Department.

 

But as the governor signed the bill — with several Epstein survivors at his side — a Palm Beach County judge denied a pending court petition calling for the records to be unsealed. Judge Luis Delgado, who reviewed the grand jury records, proclaiming that making the files public “will not further justice.” However, it was clear his ruling was timed to coincide with the new bill, as he noted that the provisions under the new law could give the court more leeway because of the intense public interest in the case.

Under the new law, the records will not be made public until at least July 1.

“The legislature and I agreed that there needs to be a mechanism in some of these rare circumstances where people can get the truth and where we can try to pursue justice,” DeSantis said.

He added there are still many questions surrounding the case yet to be answered, even though Epstein is now dead and his accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, is serving a long prison sentence.

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