Jeffrey Epstein, First Prosecutor Barry Krischer: Who is he?

Barry Krischer, the 80-year-old Palm Beach County district attorney in 2006, was the first prosecutor to prosecute Jeffrey Epstein. But he torpedoed the case before a grand jury was considering the charges, leaving open the possibility that Epstein sexually abused underage girls for years until his arrest in New York in 2019.

The longtime Palm Beach County attorney has had a string of interesting cases in his career that have garnered national attention, including the case of a special-needs child who stole $2 from a classmate whom Krischer accused of armed robbery, and a fatal hit-and-run case in which he helped shield his client’s identity from law enforcement for years.

Krischer was Palm Beach County’s district attorney for 16 years, from 1992 to 2009, leaving office while Epstein was serving a prison sentence on two prostitution-related charges. The grand jury was the first in Palm Beach County to consider a sex crime.

Transcripts of those proceedings were made public July 1 in a lawsuit filed by The Palm Beach Post in 2019. Sources told the newspaper that only one victim testified in its investigation, “Jeffrey Epstein, the First Failure,” and that the prosecutor presenting the case undermined her authority with content posted on her MySpace pages.

It turned out that of the nearly two dozen young women and underage girls who described abuse at Epstein’s residence, the statements were provided by two victims who gave them to Palm Beach police.

The prosecutor bluntly called each of them prostitutes to the jury. Assistant State’s Attorney Lanna Belohlavek asked one of them if she knew she had “committed a crime.”

The grand jury charged Epstein with just one crime: soliciting prostitution — a charge that a “client” who solicits an adult sex worker can face — which does not reflect the age of the victims, who could not consent under state law.

Epstein pleaded guilty to an additional charge of enticing a person under the age of 18 to engage in prostitution and spent 13 months in Palm Beach County Jail beginning in July 2008.

The Post filed a lawsuit seeking access to the grand jury transcripts so the public and victims could learn why Epstein was convicted of charges most people consider to be far from the scope of his crimes.

More: Understanding Jeffrey Epstein’s Grand Jury Transcript and the 5-Year Fight to Release It

Here are seven facts you should know about Krischer.

Barry Krischer Was Part of the ‘Deal of the Century’ for Jeffrey Epstein

The favorable plea deal that Epstein obtained, freeing him from facing a 60-count federal indictment and shielding his co-conspirators from federal criminal charges, was reached with Krischer’s consent because the charges were brought in his jurisdiction — a state court.

The feds began investigating Epstein around the time a grand jury issued its indictment in June 2006. Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter expressed concern to Krischer about his prosecution in the case, calling the state’s attorney’s handling of the cases “highly unusual.”

After providing evidence of nearly two dozen women and underage girls who told similar stories of sexual abuse at Epstein’s residence, Reiter decided to turn the case over to the FBI.

Ultimately, Epstein pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison in Krischer’s jurisdiction, not federal prosecutors’. Under the infamous non-prosecution agreement, Epstein had to make a deal with Krischer, and Krischer was allowed to add charges.

Here’s more about Krischer’s legal career:

Barry Krischer defended death row inmate who killed nanny and mother but hated it

Krischer practiced law as a defense attorney and at one point defended Duane Owen, who was executed in 2023 for the 1984 murder and rape of a teenage babysitter and a single mother. Owen murdered both while the children slept nearby.

Krischer was so disgusted with Owen, who ultimately manipulated the justice system for decades, that he tried to withdraw from the case. He said it was one reason he returned to the prosecutor’s office.

More: Duane Owen’s Execution: Did Karen Slattery’s Little Sister Find Rainbow in Killer’s Death?

Krischer sues special needs child for taking $2 of lunch money

Anthony Laster, a 15-year-old eighth-grade student with cognitive disabilities and special needs, approached his classmate at Congress Middle School in 1999 asking for $2 for his child’s lunch.

When Anthony’s friend wouldn’t let go, Anthony reached into his pocket and pulled out the money.

Anthony was arrested and placed in juvenile detention.

Anthony had an IQ of 58, was hard of hearing, and was taking classes to learn how to read and do simple math. He spent 21 days in juvenile detention.

But Krischer wanted to make an example of him and filed charges of armed robbery, extortion, and petty theft in adult court. Anthony spent seven weeks in jail, including Christmas.

“Children going to school need to know they will be safe,” Krischer said.

Anthony’s mother, who raised him alone, died in the November before his arrest in February, and his grandfather died the previous May.

In the face of a nationwide storm of criticism, Krischer dropped the charges.

For 2.5 years, Krischer protected the name of a client who hit and killed a man in Palm Beach and then fled

A Delray Beach restaurateur had drinks, dinner, and a dance at Taboo in Palm Beach one Saturday night in 1986. He was driving his Buick Riviera down South Ocean Boulevard when he saw something in the road—“a pile of rags, trash, some kind of dark bag.” When he tried to straddle it, the car made a “bumpy bump” sound.

That “bump” was a person — Mark Baltes, 28, an electrician from Lake Worth Beach. Baltes was killed when a car dragged him 65 feet.

The driver didn’t know he had hit and killed someone until he read the newspaper the next day. He then went to his landlord, Barry Krischer, for help.

It took 2½ years for the public to learn the name of the driver, William Morser. Krischer invoked attorney-client privilege in an attempt to negotiate immunity from prosecution and no prison time with prosecutors.

Meanwhile, the case has sparked a nationwide debate about how far attorney-client privilege should extend. A judge ruled that Krischer could protect Morser’s name under attorney-client privilege.

As Krischer later stated, district attorney investigators concluded that Morser was “dumb luck.”

They knew the car was a Buick Riviera from evidence at the scene, so they compiled a list of about 1,000 cars. They went through the list for years. They ran one of them at an address in West Palm Beach, and when the DA heard about it, he remembered playing basketball at Krischer’s house in that neighborhood. So they ran a check on Krischer’s tenant in 1986, and they found him.

The Riviera was not involved in the accident. Morser’s car did not have Florida plates, and his relatives took it to Massachusetts shortly after the accident. He never returned to Florida.

Master for children

Shortly after taking office in 1993, Krischer expanded the staff of attorneys in the Crimes Against Children Unit of the State Attorney’s Office, hiring as many as eight assistant state attorneys to handle all homicide, abuse, neglect and sexual assault cases involving children.

Assistant State’s Attorney Lanna Belohlavek, who presented Epstein’s case to a grand jury in 2006, was then the unit chief. Belohlavek undermined both of Epstein’s prosecution witnesses before the grand jury.

While working as a private attorney, Krischer represented the Palm Beach County Child Protective Services team, which helps victims of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault.

He has received numerous awards for his work with child protection agencies and non-profit organizations.

Teen Champion? Not necessarily

Krischer was strict with minors and accused many of them as adults.

The year before he was elected state’s attorney, 197 juveniles were charged as adults. In Krischer’s first four months in office, he charged 119 people. They ranged in age from 13 to 17.

In addition to Epstein’s victims, Krischer famously didn’t believe two teenagers who told investigators from their hospital beds in November 2006 that Jason Shenfeld had tied them up with duct tape and threatened them with a knife and his pit bull if they didn’t have sex. Krischer didn’t charge Shenfeld.

Eight months later, Amanda Buckley, an 18-year-old Palm Beach Gardens High softball star, was found raped and strangled in Shenfeld’s closet, with duct tape in her hair.

Barry Krischer has worked on both sides of the courtroom

Krischer practiced law both as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor.

From 1970 to 1973, he worked as a prosecutor in Kings County, New York. After coming to Palm Beach County, he went to work for then-District Attorney David Bludworth and served as an assistant district attorney for 10 years.

He then teamed up with longtime attorney Michael Salnick, and in 1992 he ran for district attorney.

Holly Baltz is the investigative editor at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected].