Governor requests FDLE investigation into Jeffrey Epstein case

Sheriff believes 'public interest would be best served' with outside examination

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Janine Stanwood - Anchor/Reporter

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over the investigation of disgraced Palm Beach financier Jeffrey Epstein.

DeSantis sent a letter Tuesday to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen requesting "a preliminary inquiry into misconduct and allegations that go beyond the reported concerns with Jeffrey Epstein's work release."

"We're thrilled that the governor agrees with what we've been asking for for over two weeks, which is that an independent investigation occur," Democratic State Senator and abuse survivor Lauren Book said. 

Epstein was allowed out of jail on work release 12 hours a day, six days a week while completing a 13-month sentence on prostitution-related charges involving underage girls. That came in a 2008 plea deal that included a nonprosecution agreement on federal charges.

DeSantis also issued an executive order reassigning the investigation from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg to the 19th Judicial Circuit of Florida.

"Floridians expect and deserve a full and fair investigation," DeSantis said.

The governor's actions come after Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw sent him a letter formally requesting that the FDLE "assume the existing criminal investigation."

Bradshaw, whose agency oversaw Epstein's work release, pledged his full support and cooperation.

"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," Bradshaw wrote, adding that the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office would continue its internal affairs investigation.

Bradshaw announced Friday that he has suspended the work release program pending an independent review.

"We want survivors to know that while in this case it took a long time to receive justice, that we're not going to stand by and allow a system to re-victimize you," Book said. 

Epstein faces federal sex trafficking charges in New York. He has pleaded not guilty.

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