Barry Krischer, the former longtime Palm Beach County state attorney, didn’t like it in July when Alex Acosta — under fire for the decade-old agreement that gave notorious serial offender Jeffrey Epstein the lightest of sentences — pointed the finger back to Krischer, whose office handled the case first.
“The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing,” said Acosta, the former U.S. Attorney in Miami who was soon to lose his job as President Trump’s labor secretary.
Krischer snapped back that Acosta was “rewriting history” and maintained it was federal prosecutors, not he, who crafted the non-prosecution agreement that has become a national outrage.
“I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta’s recollection of this matter is completely wrong,” Krischer said in a statement, adding: “The State Attorney’s Office was not a party to those meetings or negotiations, and definitely had no part in the federal Non-Prosecution Agreement.”
No, it’s Krischer who is wrong. It’s Krischer who is rewriting history.
Under pressure of a public records lawsuit from The Palm Beach Post, the State Attorney’s Office recently released 134 pages of documents and two videos never before made public.
And these documents leave no doubt that Krischer was key to federal prosecutors’ efforts in 2007 to end the case quietly. How? He helped broker the deal.
Krischer acted as a go-between for one of Epstein’s lawyers, Jack Goldberger, and the U.S. attorney’s office, even though Krischer had handed over the case to the feds a year earlier.
In the crucial weeks before the deal was signed in September 2007, Krischer received four calls from Goldberger — one to confirm a meeting. And in a handwritten note, Goldberger gave Acosta’s private phone number to Krischer because the defense team needed to finalize the pact.
“Let me know what he has to say,” Goldberger told Krischer.
Acosta’s office needed Krischer’s help, too. Acosta’s lead negotiator, then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana, sent Krischer an email, warning that Epstein was having second thoughts about the deal they were crafting.
“If we cannot reach such an agreement, then I need to indict the case on Tuesday and I will not budge from that date,” Villafana wrote.
Krischer delivered: “Glad we could get this worked out for reasons I won’t put in writing. After this is resolved I would love to buy you a cup at Starbucks and have a conversation.”
Epstein’s victims and county taxpayers must wonder what parts of the story Krischer was uncomfortable putting in writing. Because the then-state attorney may not have carried the ball in putting the cozy agreement together, but he was certainly key to getting it across the goal line.
These details are reported in a remarkable investigation into Krischer’s handling of the case published in the Nov. 17 Post. It’s based on 10,000 pages of documents and interviews with people who were close to the secret grand jury proceeding — which appears to have been Krischer’s vehicle for dispensing with the case with as little inconvenience to the wealthy, well-connected Epstein as possible.
The record uncovered by The Post establishes that instead of treating the string of teen girls abused by Epstein as victims — vulnerable girls often from troubled homes — Krischer’s office regarded them as prostitutes, girls who willingly accepted money to give “massages” in which they would be molested or sexually assaulted by the much older man.
The result of Krischer’s sandbagging of what should have been a powerful case: Epstein could plead guilty to felony aggravated assault, wouldn’t be jailed and, if he fulfilled the terms of his probation, would have his criminal record erased.
So, it was just as Acosta said: Krischer had been ready to let Epstein go with no jail time. Palm Beach police were so incensed at the extreme leniency, they referred the case to the FBI; a year later came the almost-as-soft non-prosecution pact.
The Post investigation reveals a lot about how Krischer produced so lame a prosecution. But to learn more, the newspaper filed a lawsuit last week seeking to pry open the grand jury transcripts.
And on Nov. 18, a state attorney appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was looking into Krischer’s handling of the case; earlier, that criminal probe had been known to focus primarily on Epstein’s cushy stay in the Palm Beach County Jail and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.
Epstein died in August in a Manhattan jail cell, a pariah at 66. But his victims, who were mostly girls from local high schools, are alive. They, along with county taxpayers, deserve answers. And Krischer’s apology.
An editorial from the Palm Beach Post.