Judge orders surprise release of Epstein transcripts

A Epstein mugshot seen when charges were filed against hmi
[Getty Images]

A judge in Florida has ordered the surprise release of graphic transcripts from the state's 2006 prosecution of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein - a probe that ended with the millionaire financier receiving a legal slap on the wrist.

Epstein cut a deal in 2008 to avoid charges of sex trafficking and rape. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

The nearly 200 pages of documents contain details of Epstein's crimes, including first-hand accounts from victims and specifics about payoffs to underage victims.

When prosecutors made that deal, they knew he had sexually assaulted teenage girls two years before, according to the transcripts.

On Monday, Circuit Judge Luis Delgado ordered the 16-year-old documents released, writing that "details in the record will be outrageous to decent people".

"The testimony taken by the Grand Jury concerns activity ranging from grossly unacceptable to rape — all of the conduct at issue is sexually deviant, disgusting, and criminal."

Referring to Epstein as "the most infamous pedophile in American history", the judge added that the state's leniency in the case "been the subject of much anger and has at times diminished the public's perception of the criminal justice system".

"Epstein is indeed notorious and infamous and is widely reported to have flaunted his wealth while cavorting with politicians, billionaires, and even British Royalty," he continued.

"It is understandable that given those reports the public has a great curiosity about what was widely reported by news (agencies) as 'special treatment' regarding his prosecution."

A grand jury investigation into Epstein's rape and trafficking of teenage girls at his mansion in Palm Beach began in 2006, two years before his plea deal.

That controversial deal has long been criticised as too favourable to him and a missed opportunity to put him behind bars.

The release of the files came on the same day that a new Florida law took effect permitting grand jury documents from 2006 to be released. Grand jury documents are normally never made public.

Convicted in 2008 for soliciting prostitution from a minor, Epstein had moved in social circles that included key figures in the world of business and politics. Those figures included people like former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton to celebrities and even Prince Andrew.

New scrutiny of Epstein began in 2018 after the Miami Herald published interviews with Epstein victims, including some who were seeking civil charges against him.

The renewed interest in the case led prosecutors to file new criminal charges.

Epstein took his own life in a Manhattan jail in 2019 while awaiting trial over federal sex-trafficking charges.

His accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, is serving a 20-year sentence for helping Epstein carry out sex trafficking crimes.