The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has opened an internal affairs investigation into whether it properly handled the case of multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, the part-time Palm Beach resident accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
Specifically, it will look at the decision more than a decade ago to allow Epstein to be free 12 hours a day on work release while serving a short sentence in the county stockade on prostitution-related charges.
On Friday, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw — the same sheriff who oversaw the controversial work release arrangement — ordered that the investigation be done.
“Sheriff Bradshaw takes these matters very seriously and wants to determine if any actions taken by the deputies assigned to monitor Epstein during his work release program violated any agency rules and regulations, during the time he was on PBSO work release program,” a news release said.
In the middle of the previous decade, Epstein was investigated for allegedly abusing young girls who were lured to his Palm Beach estate by recruiters. The girls, as young as 14, were told they would be giving a man a massage, then allegedly coerced into sex acts.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office prepared a 53-page sex trafficking indictment against Epstein, but then, under pressure from Epstein’s team of lawyers, shelved the indictment and deferred the case to the Palm Beach state attorney as part of a non-prosecution agreement.
After Epstein pleaded guilty to solicitation of a minor, a much lesser charge, he served a little more than a year in the county stockade rather than the decades-long sentence he could have faced under the federal indictment.
Moreover, the sheriff’s office allowed him to leave the jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week on “work release,” a decision that has been harshly criticized.
Last November, the Miami Herald published a series of articles, Perversion of Justice, that closely examined the non-prosecution agreement, including the U.S. attorney’s decision to keep the agreement secret from victims, in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. That series of articles also raised questions over whether Epstein, as a sex offender accused by dozens of underage girls, actually qualified for work release.
Earlier this month, the FBI arrested Epstein, 66, in New Jersey on sex trafficking charges as he arrived at Teterboro Airport in his private jet. He is charged with trafficking in New York and Florida, two of several locations where he has opulent homes.
On Thursday, a federal judge denied Epstein’s request to be released from jail as he awaits trial in New York. The judge declared him a danger to young girls.