The Miami Herald reports today that the Department of Justice has announced it will open an investigation into a plea deal which Jeffrey Epstein reached with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta who is currently Trump’s Secretary of Labor:
The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta’s role in negotiating a controversial plea deal with a wealthy New York investor accused of molesting more than 100 underage girls in Palm Beach.
The probe is in response to a request by Sen. Ben Sasse, a a Nebraska Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who raised questions about the case following a series of stories in the Miami Herald.
Just last week the DOJ Inspector General said he could not take up the case because of statutory limitations:
In a letter responding to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, and other lawmakers, Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, said there were “important questions” about the resolution of the Epstein case, but lamented that allegations of misconduct relating to Justice Department attorneys’ handling of litigation or legal decisions falls outside his purview.
It appears that with an IG investigation ruled out, the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility is stepping up to look at this. This is long overdue.
I wrote about the Miami Herald series that prompted all of this here. Epstein was accused of bringing dozens of teenage girls, most of them high school students at the time, to his Florida mansion to give him sexual massages for money. Investigators were in the process of rounding up witnesses to make a case which could have landed Epstein behind bars for the rest of his life. Instead, Epstein leveraged his wealth and a dream team of attorneys and private investigators to reach a sweetheart deal with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta. From the Herald’s story:
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
Not only was the deal a bargain for Epstein and any “potential co-conspirators,” not only was it kept secret from the victims, but it gave Epstein a pass by treating a 14-year-old girl as a prostitute rather than a victim of child sex-trafficking by adults:
Epstein admitted to committing only one offense against one underage girl, who was labeled a prostitute, even though she was 14, which is well under the age of consent — 18 in Florida…
“It’s just outrageous how they minimized his crimes and devalued his victims by calling them prostitutes,’’ said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney and executive director of Rights4Girls, which is working to end the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.
“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Under federal law, it’s called child sex trafficking — whether Epstein pimped them out to others or not. It’s still a commercial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life under federal law,” she said.
In addition to being a grade A creep, Epstein was also known as supporter and friend of Bill Clinton. In 2016, Fox News reported that Clinton flew on Epstein’s private jet 26 times. That’s more than other sites had reported previously. Whatever the case, it’s clear the two were chummy. Gee, I wonder what they liked to talk about? It’s a real head-scratcher. But as usual, Bill Clinton isn’t expected to be accountable for his behavior.
Here’s a video report that was part of the Miami Herald series: