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Florida governor orders criminal probe over prior Jeffrey Epstein case

Florida governor orders criminal probe over prior Jeffrey Epstein case

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Charges against Jeffery Epstein were announced on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors.

Stephanie Keith | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Epstein served 13 months in jail in that case, which was filed after police called for far more serious charges involving alleged sexual misconduct with underage girls to be brought against the former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.

In addition to criticism of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office’s handling of the earlier Epstein case, there also has been criticism of a non-prosecution deal that the then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta cut with Epstein, which also granted immunity to his alleged co-conspirators.

That deal let Epstein off the hook for potential federal criminal charges in 2007 in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty in the state prostitution case, and to register as a sex offender. Acosta resigned as Trump’s Labor secretary last month after outrage over the agreement mounted on the heels of Epstein’s arrest.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department recently opened a criminal probe into the circumstances of Epstein’s jail stint in that county, during which he was allowed out for hours each day to work.

A lawyer for some of Epstein’s accusers claim he was visited at least once during his work release by a woman, and that Epstein engaged in sexual conduct during that visit.

On Tuesday, Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in a letter to DeSantis asked that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement take over that investigation, “given the recent questions that have been raised around the Jeffrey Epstein case.”

Bradshaw wrote that “I pledge the cooperation and participation of my agency” and also said, “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.”

In response to that letter, DeSantis wrote the head of the FDLE, Rick Swearingen, and asked that the agency take over the ongoing criminal investigation involving the work release.

“Also, I am requesting the FDLE initiate a preliminary inquiry into misconduct and allegations that go beyond the reported concerns  with Jeffrey Epstein’s work release,” DeSantis wrote.

The governor also announced that he had re-assigned the case to the State Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Bruce Colton.

Colton’s district includes counties other than that of Palm Beach County, whose criminal cases, including the earlier one involving Epstein, are normally handled by the State Attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit.

Colton told CNBC he and his team are “absolutely new to the case.”

“I don’t have any problem handling the case,” Colton said.

Colton said that he had only been informed of his assignment about 90 minutes prior to DeSantis’ press release being made public.

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