A 2007 plea deal offered to Jeffrey Epstein, long criticized for its leniency, will be the focus of a new investigation.
NBC News reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered a criminal investigation into the 2007 plea deal that carried a light, flexible jail sentence for Epstein and allowed him to avoid federal charges. Epstein had been accused of sexually abusing multiple underage girls, but ultimately pleaded guilty to one charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison — but was not behind bars the whole time.
As the Miami Herald notes, just a few months into the sentence, served in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Stockade, Epstein was permitted to leave custody for up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week as part of a work-release program. According to the report, Epstein’s private driver would pick him up and take him to an office he had set up in West Palm Beach.
According to the Miami Herald, the criminal investigation will specifically probe the roles of the Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the former Palm Beach state attorney in the work-release privileges and the leniency of the agreement. As NBC News notes, Bradshaw had previously ordered an internal review of the work-release program enjoyed by Epstein, although he reportedly approved it at the time.
It is unclear what criminal charges could result from the investigation.
James Acosta reportedly signed off on the plea agreement when he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Acosta later became the Labor Secretary in Donald Trump’s administration, but resigned last month after Epstein’s arrest on federal sex trafficking charges renewed scrutiny of the Florida plea agreement.
Epstein is currently being held without bail in a New York City corrections facility.
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