Editorials

If Sen. Book can face down threats, Palm Beach sheriff can handle a state investigation | Editorial

There are plenty of people, apparently, who — as the iconic movie line goes — can’t handle the truth, something that State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, found out in a most chilling manner last week. She says she received warnings and threats of trouble if she does not stop asking questions about the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.

In 2008-2009, sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein was allowed to come and go from a comfortable jail cell in the Palm Beach County Stockade to his business office during the week. Book wants to know why. So do we. So should everyone who wants to see those culpable in this travesty of justice held accountable.

In a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, Book asked him to authorize the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate how this happened. It’s another infuriating blank that needs to be filled in if all are going to be held accountable for the lenient treatment Epstein received. At the time, he was alleged to have sexually abused scores of young girls.

The spotlight has now fallen on Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who approved Epstein’s work-release. Earlier this month, Bradshaw announced an internal affairs investigation after appalling reports that Epstein was allowed to have female visitors at his office, including at least one visit that led to a sexual encounter.

Good. But not good enough. It is imperative that this tawdry case be the focus of a state-level probe into the sheriff’s office’s role. Former Gov. Rick Scott authorized an FDLE probe into the failings of the Broward Sheriff’s Office after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

The sorry facts of the Epstein case are well-known by now. Multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, whom federal prosecutors in South Florida were prepared to charge in the sexual assault of several young girls he lured to his Palm Beach mansion, instead was cut a break by then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta. Sentenced to 18 months in jail, Epstein served only 13, with work-release privileges. And Acosta kept Epstein’s young victims in the dark about the deal.

Epstein was treated with kid gloves every step of the way. Still, not everyone thinks a state probe is a good idea. Since making her request, Book says that she has received several phone calls — some from Bradshaw’s supporters, others made anonymously — warning her off of digging too deeply into what she says is an “atrocity of justice.”

“They are saying, ‘Stop it, you don’t know what you’re going to get yourself into,’” Book told the Editorial Board. “Some are clearly warning me that I’m going to have some difficult times ahead and political retribution.” Book herself is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The warnings are appalling. In trying to shield the Palm Beach sheriff or others, his supporters appear willing to see justice denied again. The threats are despicable, in a broader case that defines the word. Book alerted the Capitol Police last week upon receiving an anonymous threat. We urge the police to take this case seriously.

DeSantis said on Thursday that he would “certainly consider” an investigation. But he should take far more urgent action, and fulfill Book’s request. The culpable finally are getting their due: Acosta has resigned as U.S. secretary of Labor; Epstein is in jail, awaiting trial in New York.

We encourage Book to watch her back, but to keep pushing. The warnings are a clear sign that she is on the right track.

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