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Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Palm Beach Police Department signs a bill into law on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, to open grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case to the public. Among those in attendance were some of Epstein’s victims, including Haley Robson, left, and Jena-Lisa Cordovez, second from right, who said they were thankful for this action. (Shira Moolten/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Palm Beach Police Department signs a bill into law on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, to open grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case to the public. Among those in attendance were some of Epstein’s victims, including Haley Robson, left, and Jena-Lisa Cordovez, second from right, who said they were thankful for this action. (Shira Moolten/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
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Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will publicly release the grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case.

DeSantis held a news conference at the Palm Beach Police Department, where he signed a bill passed by the state Legislature last week authorizing the release.

Grand jury proceedings are usually shrouded in secrecy, but the intense public interest escalated when Epstein was exposed as a serial sexual predator and his .

“There were a lot of questions about what happened where you had a sweetheart deal,” DeSantis said. “The reality is the investigation was stymied because you didn’t have access of the grand jury materials. I agree there needs to be a mechanism in these rare circumstances where people should be able to get the truth so we can pursue justice.”

Two of Epstein’s victims, Haley Robson and Jena-Lisa Cordovez, attended the signing and said they were thankful for this action.

“This is not something we should be forgetting about. This is not something to be sweeping under the rug,” Robson said. “A lot of us are still in therapy. We’re still trying to survive. I can’t express the gratitude I have for this bill. I never thought this would be in our cards.”

DeSantis said he’d be wiling to consider releasing sealed records in other cases where victims may have been denied justice, such as victims of sexual abuse from the Catholic Church. “I’m open to being able to to institute policies that are going to try to right a wrong,” he said, adding the Epstein case was “not handled in a way that justice required.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, he will publicly release the grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein's 2006 sexual abuse case. This photo provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Epstein on March 28, 2017. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will publicly release the grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case. This photo provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Epstein on March 28, 2017. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

The information is scheduled to be released July 1, although Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts Joseph Abruzzo had said he had hoped it would be sooner.

“How did he get such a sweetheart deal?” Abruzzo asked earlier in February. “There are so many unanswered questions about what happened. Making these records public is a necessary step for full transparency for the victims and for the public.”

Many were hoping a South Florida circuit judge, Luis Delgado, would release the transcripts sooner as part of a lawsuit filed by the Palm Beach Post. But the judge ruled Thursday not to release them right now.

“A logical explanation for the ruling would be to wait until the new law takes effect so there’s no ambiguity, that Judge Delgado has full discretion over the release of the records,” Abruzzo said after the news conference.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, that he will publicly release the grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein's 2006 sexual abuse case. (The Florida Channel)
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will publicly release the grand jury testimony in Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case.

The Palm Beach Post sued the Palm Beach County state attorney and the court clerk in 2019 to obtain a court order to unseal the grand jury proceedings and reveal why the grand jury returned only . The state attorney was dropped from the suit in 2020, since the records were not controlled by or in the possession of that office.

Epstein had been accused of luring teenage girls to his Palm Beach mansion and sexually abusing them. He was found dead in his New York jail cell in 2019 while he was awaiting trial on additional sex-trafficking charges.

Two years ago, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was Epstein’s former girlfriend, household manager and chief recruiter of young, vulnerable females, was convicted of child sex trafficking and other offences. She is serving a 20-year sentence.

Epstein was 66 when he killed himself as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors had accused him of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars for massages at his homes in Florida and New York, where he then molested them.

Florida’s treatment of Epstein came under scrutiny in 2018 following a series of Miami Herald articles. They detailed the disagreements that surfaced beginning in 2005 among law enforcement officials after teenage girls and young women told Palm Beach police investigators that Epstein had sexually assaulted them.

They had agreed to give him massages while semi-nude or fully nude in exchange for money, but they said he would then molest them without their consent.

The bill to release the grand jury records was sponsored by Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, R-Highland Beach, and Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton.

On Thursday, former Epstein victims as well as some lawyers, police and Palm Beach town council members gathered in a small room inside the Palm Beach Police headquarters for the bill signing, in the center of the quiet, wealthy town where Epstein had once lived.

They included Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore and Abruzzo, who worked with Polsky and Gossett-Seidman in fighting for the legislation. “It’s a done deal,” Moore said. “That’s a good thing.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda contributed to this news article, which was supplemented with information from The Associated Press.

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