Skip to main content

Jeffrey Epstein grand jury materials from Florida prosecution might see light of day, appeals court finds

Jeffrey Epstein stands in front of his Gulfstream

The government entered this photograph of Jeffrey Epstein standing in front of his Gulfstream airplane into evidence during his ex-pilot’s testimony during the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. (Photo via DOJ)

A Florida appeals court set the stage for the possible release of grand jury materials from Jeffrey Epstein’s Sunshine State prosecution for soliciting prostitution from a minor.

“Courts have inherent authority to ‘do all things that are reasonably necessary for the administration of justice within the scope of its jurisdiction, subject to existing laws and constitutional provisions,'” the Fourth District Court of Appeal wrote unanimously in a per curiam ruling on Wednesday.

The appellate court stopped short of ordering the release of the documents, but the judges overturned the 15th Judicial Circuit’s finding that traditional grand jury secrecy rules out exceptions for the release of those materials. In so ruling, the appellate court primed separate legal battles in higher and lower courts.

The Supreme Court of Florida, the state’s top court, must now consider the following question” of “great public importance.”

“DOES A CIRCUIT COURT HAVE INHERENT AUTHORITY TO DISCLOSE GRAND JURY EVIDENCE TO FURTHER JUSTICE UNDER SECTION 905.27?” the opinion asks, referring to Florida’s statutory exemption for grand jury secrecy.

Should the Florida Supreme Court answer yes, the judges laid out a separate test for a lower court to determine whether the Palm Beach Post — the newspaper petitioning for the materials’ release — meets that bar toward the end of the seven-page opinion.

“If so, the court has the inherent authority to disclose any material that furthers justice,” the opinion states. “In doing so, the trial court shall take steps necessary to protect the identity of the victims, witnesses, and those who have not been criminally charged. If the court determines disclosure of any of the material will not further justice, the court can, in its discretion, deny disclosure of that material.”

Roughly a decade before his federal prosecution for sex trafficking and jailhouse death, Epstein became a sex offender in Florida after pleading guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution from a minor. Controversy swirled around that result. Epstein’s victims said that prosecutors kept them in the dark, before giving their predator a sweetheart plea deal.

Though more than 150 women and girls said they were his victims, Epstein ultimately copped to a single charge characterizing the minor victim as a sex worker, rather than an abuse survivor. His politically connected attorneys, from Alan Dershowitz to Ken Starr, ultimately scored Epstein a non-prosecution agreement purporting to shield his alleged co-conspirators. Then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta ultimately agreed to the deal, in an act that haunted his political career.

Acosta resigned from his position in former President Donald Trump’s cabinet, where he briefly served as secretary of labor, in disgrace, after The Miami Herald’s investigation, “Perversion of Justice,” cast a spotlight on the deal.

Before federal authorities took over the investigation, the case began with local authorities in Palm Beach, Florida. The pending records request seeks answers about that grand jury probe.

In a separate concurring opinion, Judges Jeffrey Kuntz and Cory Ciklan agreed with the lead ruling but would have broadened the question for the high court to consider. Kuntz outlined his own views on statutory interpretation further in a third opinion.

Read the ruling here.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."