A Florida judge on Tuesday blocked special prosecutors appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis from obtaining grand-jury records from alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s 2006 indictment on a single charge of soliciting prostitution, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
Epstein, a financier who was found dead in a New York jail in August while awaiting prosecution, was accused of numerous instances of rape and sex trafficking. The Herald revealed in 2018 that Epstein had received an extremely lenient plea deal after a 2008 conviction on state prostitution charges.
DeSantis has tasked special prosecutors with investigating whether any corruption was involved in forming the plea deal. The unusual deal allowed Epstein to serve 13 months in county jail, much of which was spent in his personal office on work release, and all but ceased an FBI probe into the financier and other powerful figures who may have participated in his sex crimes.
The prosecutors requested that Palm Beach County judge Krista Marx unseal grand-jury tapes from the 2006 indictment to determine whether the jurors were aware that many of Epstein’s victims were underage. Marx refused, saying prosecutors had not established evidence of corruption on part of the grand jury and that grand-jury tapes could only be unsealed as a “last resort” under Florida law.
“There has not been a scintilla of evidence to suggest corruption,” Marx said. She emphasized that prosecutors would need to provide more than “bare-bones” evidence of wrongdoing before the tapes could be revealed.
The Epstein scandal has roped in a number of prominent public figures including Prince Andrew, son of England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Virginia Roberts, a vocal Epstein accuser, has repeatedly alleged that the British royal raped her.
The FBI is currently investigating Epstein’s friend and alleged madame Ghislane Maxwell. Maxwell is accused of luring Roberts into Epstein’s circle, forcing her to have sex with both Epstein and Prince Andrew.