Florida Governor Signs Landmark Bill to Reveal Jeffrey Epstein Grand Jury Records

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Thursday to release long-sealed state grand jury records from an investigation into the late financier Jeffrey Epstein. The bill, known as HB 117, will make the transcripts of a 2006 grand jury public. During a press conference in Palm Beach, DeSantis expressed the importance of holding Epstein accountable for his crimes, stating, “What happened was clearly wrong, and the punishment was simply wholly inadequate to the crime.”

Two of Epstein’s victims joined DeSantis at the bill signing. The legislation had received unanimous approval from the state legislature and is set to go into effect on July 1. However, a South Florida circuit judge may release the transcripts sooner in response to a lawsuit filed by the Palm Beach Post.

The Palm Beach Post had previously sued the Palm Beach County state attorney and court clerk in 2019, seeking a court order to unseal the grand jury proceedings and shed light on why the grand jury returned minimal charges. A circuit judge later determined that releasing the sealed records went against state law. However, a state appeals court overruled this decision, citing a state law that allows for the release of grand jury records if it serves the interests of justice.

The new bill also provides that grand jury records can be released if the subject of the investigation is deceased or if the investigation involves sexual activity with a minor. Joseph Abruzzo, the Palm Beach County Court Clerk, is responsible for the custody of the records. While he was technically a defendant in the Palm Beach Post’s lawsuit, he has not opposed the appeals court’s ruling and has previously expressed a desire for full transparency.

Epstein, accused of paying underage girls for massages and subsequently molesting them, died by suicide in a federal jail cell in New York City in August 2019. The case has drawn attention to Florida’s handling of Epstein, particularly following a series of articles published by the Miami Herald in 2018. These articles shed light on disagreements between law enforcement officials regarding the charges brought against Epstein in 2008, which ultimately resulted in a plea deal.

In addition to Epstein’s case, the legislation also shines a light on the involvement of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend, in trafficking girls to his homes for sexual abuse. Maxwell was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in the crimes. Governor DeSantis emphasized the significance of pursuing justice in the Epstein case, and he recognized that the impact of this case extended beyond Florida, referring to it as “a massive, massive operation here that was targeting these very, very young girls.”