MIAMI (AP) — A Florida sheriff launched an investigation Friday into whether his department properly monitored the wealthy financer Jeffrey Epstein while he was serving a sentence for soliciting prostitution from underage girls.
The inquiry will focus on whether deputies assigned to monitor Epstein in a work-release program violated any rules or regulations, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a statement. Under a 2008 plea deal, Epstein was allowed to spend most of his days at the office of his now-defunct Florida Science Foundation, which doled out research grants, rather than in the county jail.
“All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total accountability and transparency,” Bradshaw said.
Epstein, 66, was convicted of prostitution-related charges in the Florida case, which involved dozens of underage teenage girls. He served a 13-month sentence, registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the victims. The deal also included a formerly secret nonprosecution agreement that helped Epstein avoid more serious federal charges that could have landed him in prison for life.
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged Epstein with sex trafficking involving underage victims. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty, but a judge denied him bail on Thursday after determining he was a flight risk and posed a danger to the community.
Epstein was allowed to spend most days at his office after a little more than three months in the county jail, according to Palm Beach County sheriff’s records released to The Associated Press. Sex offenders are not eligible for Florida’s work release program, but officials say Epstein was able to participate because he wasn’t a registered sex offender until after he had already served his time.
Under his 2008 plea deal, Epstein had his own driver to take him to and from his office, and he was allowed to be out of jail from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week. Deputies were assigned to the office to monitor who his visitors were. Logs show many visits from attorneys, paralegals and others involved in his legal cases. It wasn’t clear if all visitors registered, however. Epstein was not allowed to leave the office unless he was returning to jail.
Bradshaw said determining whether Epstein’s wealth and high-powered legal team resulted in favoritism from the sheriff’s department would be a key part of his investigation and a question that would be taken “very seriously.”
The New York charges against Epstein led to the resignation of President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, who was Miami U.S. attorney when the nonprosecution agreement was signed. Two victims filed a federal lawsuit asking for the plea deal to be thrown out. The suit claims prosecutors did not consult with victims as required by law, and a federal judge earlier this year agreed there was a violation.
This story has been edited to clarify that the formal charge against Epstein was soliciting prostitution from underage girls.
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