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Florida Law Requires Release of Jeffrey Epstein Grand Jury Records Regarding Underage Girl Abuse Investigation TIME

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Grand jury transcripts from a 2006 Florida investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of dozens of underage girls will be released publicly later this year under legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. A local judge cited the new law in denying release of the records for now.

The measure, which takes effect July 1, would carve out a limited exception to the secrecy that generally shrouds grand jury testimony in specific cases such as that involving Epstein, DeSantis said at a signing ceremony in Palm Beach, Florida, where many of the crimes took place at Epstein’s home.

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“There needs to be a mechanism in some of these rare circumstances where people can get the truth,” the Republican governor said. “This is in the interest of justice to disclose this. We don’t think we can just turn a blind eye.”

Epstein, a wealthy financier, cut a deal with South Florida federal prosecutors in 2008 that allowed him to escape more severe federal charges and instead plead guilty to state charges of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. He was sentenced to 18 months in the Palm Beach County jail system, followed by 12 months of house arrest. He was required to register as a sex offender.

Read More: How the #MeToo Movement Helped Make New Charges Against Jeffrey Epstein Possible

“What happened was clearly wrong and the punishment was wholly inadequate for the crime,” DeSantis said.

Epstein in 2018 was charged with federal sex trafficking crimes in New York — where he also had a mansion that was a scene of abuse — after the Miami Herald published a series of articles that renewed public focus on the case, including interviews with some victims who had been pursuing civil lawsuits against him. Epstein was 66 when he killed himself in a New York City jail cell in August 2019, federal officials say.

Epstein’s former girlfriend, socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2021 of luring girls to his homes to be molested.

Read More: What’s the Point of Trying to Understand Ghislaine Maxwell?

Haley Robson, who was victimized by Epstein as a 16-year-old high school student in Florida, said she and others like her are grateful for the closure that release of the grand jury records would mean. The Associated Press does not generally report names of sexual assault victims unless they consent, and Robson appeared at the governor’s news conference to share her thoughts publicly.

“I can’t express enough how we’ve all been so affected by all of this,” Robson said. “This is not something we should be forgetting about.”

Although some material could still be edited out, most of the grand jury transcripts should be released fairly soon after the new law’s July 1 effective date once a petition is filed seeking them, DeSantis said.

“I don’t think it should take forever and a day,” the governor said.

Read More: The Biggest Names from Jeffrey Epstein’s Unsealed Court Documents

Also Thursday, mentioning the new law, a state judge decided not to release the grand jury records as part of a lawsuit filed by The Palm Beach Post and said he would consider any petition seeking them once the law takes effect in July. Circuit Judge Luis Delgado said he can’t order the release under today’s statutes.

“The release of the records will not further justice as our law currently prescribes,” Delgado wrote in a ruling denying that they be made public for now.

While in Palm Beach sheriff’s custody, Epstein was allowed to stay in an isolated cell at the county’s minimum-security stockade, where he roamed freely and watched television. Epstein was also allowed into the county’s work-release program, working from his office on his financial consulting business and his foundation.

So many questions remain unanswered about how such a lenient punishment was imposed, Robson said.

“Why was Jeffrey Epstein given such grace and mercy for his inhumane crime?” she said. “It’s going to shed light on what I’ve known this entire time.”

Associated Press

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