President Trump’s Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta will likely face some tough questioning at his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing over an unusual plea deal he oversaw for a billionaire sex offender while U.S. attorney in Miami.
That billionaire sex offender is none other than the infamous Jeffrey Epstein.
Last Thursday, Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), sent a formal request to the Department of Justice to review “all documents and communications” in the case involving Epstein.
From the Associated Press:
Critics, including attorneys for some underage victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein, say the plea agreement was a “sweetheart deal” made possible only by Epstein’s wealth, connections and high-powered lawyers. Acosta has defended his decisions as the best outcome given evidence available at the time.
Epstein, a wealthy financier, came under investigation by state and federal authorities over allegations that he had members of his personal staff solicit teenage girls at a local high school to come to his home to engage in sexual activities for money.
According to court documents, Epstein paid underage girls for sex, sexual massages, and other acts at a Palm Beach mansion he then owned as well as properties in New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and New Mexico.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting minors for prostitution, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He served only 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach jail, and was granted a 16-hour-per-day free pass to leave the premises for work.
In addition, Epstein was required to pay millions in restitution to as many as 40 victims – who were between the ages of 13 and 17 when the crimes occurred – and was required to register as a sex offender.
As part of the plea agreement negotiated by Acosta’s office, Epstein was not charged in federal court — even though the feds had drawn up a proposed 53-page indictment that carried potential punishment ranging from a mandatory 10 years in prison up to a life sentence.
The non-prosecution agreement Acosta signed off on spared Epstein from five federal charges accusing him of an interstate commerce conspiracy to recruit girls from 13 to 17 years old for sex at his Palm Beach mansion.
It gets even worse, reports the AP:
It didn’t stop there. Epstein’s lawyers worked out an unusual and secret “non-prosecution agreement” to guarantee neither Epstein nor his employees would ever face federal charges.
Well-known Miami defense lawyer Joel DeFabio, who has represented numerous defendants in sex cases, said he had never heard of such an agreement before Epstein’s came to light. DeFabio said he has had clients with far less egregious sex charges – and far less wealth – who were sentenced to 10 or 15 years behind bars. DeFabio tried to use the Epstein case to argue for more lenient sentences.
“There still has been no clear explanation as to why Epstein received such preferential treatment,” DeFabio said. “This thing just stinks. The elite take care of their own.”
Attorneys for some of Epstein’s victims say their clients’ rights were violated when Acosta’s office failed to notify them about the non-prosecution agreement in a timely manner, reports LawNewz.com:
As a result of this “sweetheart” deal, the federal government is now facing litigation with several alleged sexual abuse victims of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein who sued the government back in 2008. Their claims center around how federal prosecutors handled the investigation into Epstein’s alleged victimization of underage girls. The case reveals how federal prosecutors came to this deal with the billionaire, reportedly ignoring the rights of the alleged victims in the process. Recent filings in the case also raise legitimate questions about what else prosecutors would have discovered if the federal investigation had not come to an abrupt end with the promise of no prosecution by the feds.
One can’t help but wonder the real reason Acosta chose to protect Epstein from federal charges, but there are clues in a 2011 letter he wrote about the case after he left the U.S. Attorney’s office:
“What followed was a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors. I use the word assault intentionally, as the defense in this case was more aggressive than any which I, or the prosecutors in my office, and previously encountered..
The defense strategy was not limited to legal issues. Defense counsel investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”
Epstein had assembled a powerful world-class legal team, including Alan Dershowitz, Kenneth Starr, and Roy Black (best known for having defended William Kennedy Smith against rape charges in Palm Beach.)
“One member of the defense team warned me that the office’s excess zeal in forcing a good man to serve time in jail might be the subject of a book if we continued,” Acosta wrote.
In what is perhaps the most chilling passage of Acosta’s letter, he alludes to additional damning evidence against Epstein:
“Some may feel that the prosecution should have been tougher. Evidence that has come to light since 2007 may encourage that view. Had these additional statements and evidence been known, the outcome may have been different. But they were not known to us at the time.”
Court records also show Acosta’s office held back on filing a pair of proposed obstruction of justice charges against Epstein. The first would have accused him of harassing two of his personal assistants to thwart FBI agents from serving investigation subpoenas. The second would have accused him of dissuading a female victim from talking with agents, reports the Miami Herald.
President Trump and former president Bill Clinton have both been linked to Epstein.
From a 2002 New York magazine profile titled Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery:
Epstein likes to tell people that he’s a loner, a man who’s never touched alcohol or drugs, and one whose nightlife is far from energetic. And yet if you talk to Donald Trump, a different Epstein emerges. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump booms from a speakerphone. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
In 2010, Epstein plead the Fifth when asked by a lawyer representing one of Epstein’s victims about his relationship with Trump.
Acosta, currently dean of Florida International University’s law school, will appear before the HELP committee on Wednesday, March 22 at 9 a.m. The committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination the following week.
Contributed by Lily Dane