Sunday, July 16, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Gov. DeSantis reappoints lawyer who helped secure ‘sweetheart deal’ for Jeffrey Epstein to Judicial Nominating Commission. (Florida Politics)

Stinky appointment to the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission for our Florida Supreme Court?  You tell me.

From Florida Politics:

Gov. DeSantis reappoints lawyer who helped secure ‘sweetheart deal’ for Jeffrey Epstein to Judicial Nominating Commission. 

By Jesse Scheckner, 

Florida Politics

(July 15, 2023)

Safeguarding minors from exposure to sexual content and topics has been part of DeSantis’ stated agenda as Governor.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has reappointed a lawyer who negotiated a “sweetheart” plea deal for Palm Beach billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein 15 years ago to one of several commissions responsible for nominating judges in Florida.

DeSantis again named Miami Beach lawyer Lilly Ann Sanchez, a shareholder at LSN Law Firm, to the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami-Dade County. He first appointed her to the group July 2, 2019.

Sanchez was part of a quartet of lawyers that included Ken Starr, author of the Starr Report that led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, who defended Epstein against charges of the statutory rape of numerous underage high school girls.

Epstein ultimately pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of soliciting and trafficking underage girls, serving just 13 months on work release in a private wing of a Palm Beach jail.

Eleven years later, in March 2019, Sanchez and Starr co-wrote a letter to The New York Times defending the light sentence. They contended the “number of young women involved in the investigation has been vastly exaggerated” and that Epstein’s time in prison and “enormous monetary settlements relying on his negotiated agreement” entitled him to “finality like every other defendant.”

When the letter was published, it had been years since federal prosecutors had identified 36 underage victims in the case. Epstein was again arrested on July 6, 2019, and indicted by a grand jury for “dozens” of underage girls brought to his mansion for sexual encounters.

He died of an apparent suicide in his jail cell while awaiting trial.

Roughly a year later, it was reported that Sanchez had briefly dated one of the top prosecutors in the 2008 case, Matthew Menchel, when the two worked together at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida — a detail Menchel did not disclose to U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who in July 2019 resigned as Secretary of Labor under former President Donald Trump amid questions over his handling of the 2008 case.

Attorneys representing two of Epstein’s teen victims in a lawsuit filed years after the 2008 case said victims were never told of the arrangement his attorneys brokered then with prosecutors. Had the victims been told there was “such a sweetheart plea deal” on the table, attorneys Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell said, the deal may not have occurred.

Safeguarding minors from exposure to sexual content and topics has been part of DeSantis’ ostensible agenda as Governor, particularly in the last two years as he courted national attention while gearing up for a White House run.

In the past two months, the Governor has signed legislation all but banning LGBTQ-inclusive instruction in classrooms, levying severe fines against establishments that admit children to ‘lewd” live events, including drag shows, even if they’re accompanied by parents, and a measure outlawing the public use of restrooms that do not match a person’s sex at birth — a law DeSantis said is necessary to ensure “women’s safety.”

The Governor’s former press secretary, Christina Pushaw, who now works as the “Rapid Response Director” for his presidential campaign, last year suggested that people opposing those measures are “groomers” — a term used to describe people who gradually gain the trust of children to sexually abuse them.

Florida Division of Elections records show LSN Law Firm gave $38,000 to DeSantis through his state campaign account and political committee between July 2021 and March 2022.

She was among 38 JNC appointees the Governor’s office named in a news releaseFriday. Several others have helped him in his ongoing battle with Disney, which drew DeSantis’ ire last year when the company spoke out against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law barring public school teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual preference with students.

Atop the list was Tampa attorney Charbel Barakat, whom DeSantis named to the Supreme Court JNC one month after appointing him to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the Governor’s new state-run governing board for Disney World.

In private life, Barakat — a one-time “Jeopardy!” champion — works as regional counsel to Texas-headquartered D.R. Horton, which last year was the largest homebuilder in the United States with nearly $32.7 billion in gross revenue.

Others included:

—Oviedo lawyer Michael Sasso, who in May resigned from the state’s Disney tourism board. DeSantis reappointed him to the JNCs of both the 5th and 6th District Courts of Appeal.

Jeff Aaron, a shareholder at GrayRobinson, which has earned millions defending the DeSantis administration against legal challenges over laws critics say are discriminatory.

Michael Nardella, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s attorney, whom DeSantis appointed to the 9th Judicial Circuit JNC.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


Anonymous said...

Sweetheart deal 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year for Conservative Republicans. They get everything they want and then some all the time. The county is the way they want it to be, don't kid yourself. All their bitching is just to make it seem like they don't already get their way constantly. This is how they keep progress at bay.

Anonymous said...

It's a corrupt right wing police state complete with abominable corruption and grifting the sub-apes to a husk with human rights violations in Florida DOC. Republicans represent only other middle class and upwards Republicans. They govern with only then in mind. This is as obvious as the sky is blue and the sun is bright.