The federal Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the role that Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary Alex Acosta played in negotiating a lenient 2008 plea deal for Palm Beach multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein in a shocking case involving the sexual abuse of at least 100 girls, the Miami Herald reports.
“The probe is in response to a request by Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was critical of the case following a series of stories in the Miami Herald,” the Herald’s Julie K. Brown reports. “The Herald articles detailed how Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, and other DOJ attorneys worked hand-in-hand with defense lawyers to cut a lenient plea deal with multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008.”
Epstein, who is now 66, could have faced a life sentence for sex trafficking, the Herald detailed in its three-part series Perversion of Justice. Instead, the well-connected financial investor “was secretly granted federal immunity, along with others who were part of the conspiracy, some of whom were named, others not,” the Herald reports.
Acosta, based in South Florida at the time, “agreed to seal the agreement and keep it from Epstein’s victims so that the girls couldn’t try to derail it before he was sentenced,” the Herald reports.
The Herald reports that the 50-year-old Acosta did not respond to a request for comment. The Herald series detailed how Epstein recruited underage girls for sex for years, bringing them to his various homes in a serial abuse scandal that was well-known to his powerful friends, who included world leaders. In a detailed investigation, the Herald interviewed numerous Epstein victims and law enforcement officials about the case
“Epstein’s agreement called for him to serve 18 months in the Palm Beach County jail and to register as a sex offender,” the Herald reports. “But even in jail, Epstein received liberal work release privileges that required him to spend little time in a cell. Six days a week, he was picked up at the jail by his private driver and driven to an office in downtown West Palm Beach, where he spent up to 12 hours a day greeting friends, lawyers and several young women who were named by federal prosecutors as participants in his sex trafficking scheme.”
“Ultimately, he served 13 months on two prostitution charges and was released in 2009. Two of his victims, now in their 30s, are suing the federal government, claiming that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants crime victims certain rights, including to confer with prosecutors and be informed about any plea deal.”
The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which will conduct the investigation, “acts much like a police department’s internal affairs division, is notoriously secretive with its probes, and they rarely become public,” the Herald reports.
South Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also been pushing for a Department of Justice investigation, and criticized the decision to confine it to a government office that lacks transparency.
“This atrocious case deserves both a publicly disclosed investigation and complete independence that will ensure accountability. It’s simply not enough,” Wasserman Schultz told the Herald.
“The case has raised fundamental questions about whether well-connected, wealthy people wield influence over prosecutors and others in the justice system,” the Herald reports.
“Former Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter — who pressured Acosta and former Palm Beach state prosecutor Barry Krischer to more aggressively prosecute Epstein — said he would like to see Epstein’s victims finally receive some form of justice,” the Herald reports.
“ ‘I hope that the Department of Justice investigation answers the questions of why this case was handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in the way that it was, and may it somehow result in justice and an apology by the government for the victims and their families,’ Reiter said.”
Jena-Lisa Jones was molested by Epstein when she was 14, the Herald reports.
“ ‘I am in tears that someone is finally listening to our stories,’ she told the Herald. ‘Hopefully, God willing, something happens and they dig into this and do something.’”
families,’’ Reiter said.