Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over a criminal investigation into the case of multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who pleaded guilty 11 years ago to state prostitution charges and split his short sentence between jail and work release.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw requested the state take over the criminal inquiry and said his office will continue to handle an internal review of how his deputies handled the detention of Epstein, who now faces federal charges of conspiracy of sex trafficking.
Bradshaw wrote to DeSantis that the public interest would be served by an FDLE investigation into the aspects of the case, from sentencing to Epstein’s time in jail.
“Floridians expect and deserve a full and fair investigation,” DeSantis said. In a letter to the commissioner of the FDLE the governor also asked for the agency to take a preliminary look into “matters beyond the work release and into other irregularities concerning the case’s disposition.”
DeSantis assigned the case to the state’s attorney’s office in a neighboring district to Palm Beach County.
Twelve years ago federal prosecutors reaches a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein, which said the Department of Justice would not prosecute him for federal sex-trafficking charges and instead allowed him to plead guilty to lesser state crimes.
During his 13-month sentence in 2008 and 2009, the hedge fund manager was allowed to leave jail to work in an office 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty in July to federal charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. From 2002 to 2005, prosecutors say he paid hundreds of dollars to girls as young as 14 to have sex with him, some of whom he paid to recruit other victims. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
He is charged in a New York federal court.
In late July he was found in his Manhattan jail cell with marks on his neck, a law enforcement source and a source familiar with the incident have told CNN.
It was not clear to jail officials if the injuries were self-inflicted or the result of an assault, the law enforcement source said.
A judge had ordered Epstein to remain in jail through his trial, turning down his request to return to his Upper East Side mansion under supervision.
The trial will begin in 2020, according to federal officials.
CNN’s Tina Burnside, Erica Orden, Kara Scannell and Brynn Gingras contributed to this report.