Just days before his confirmation hearing, Alexander Acosta, President Donald Trump's labor secretary nominee, is under fire over the unusual plea deal he oversaw for billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In 2008, when Acosta was serving as the U.S. attorney in Miami, despite knowing that Epstein guilty of soliciting prostitution, he made an agreement with the billionaire that allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution and a potential life prison sentence.
According to court documents, the billionaire paid underage girls for sex, sexual massages and similar acts at a Palm Beach mansion. After the local police investigated, prosecutors at the Palm Beach decided to charge him with aggravated assault. This meant no jail time and no requirement that Epstein register as a sex offender. For the victims it means no guaranteed restitution.
Unhappy with the decision, local investigators demanded a federal probe against the labor secretary nominee. As a result, a 53-page indictment draft was proposed that stated if Epstein was convicted, he would be sentenced from 10 years to life prison.
However, a deal was worked out for him to plead guilty to state prostitution solicitation charges and the federal indictment was shelved. His lawyers further made sure that neither Epstein nor his employees would ever have to face federal charges and as a result they worked out an unusual and secret “non-prosecution agreement.”
The billionaire’s unusually light punishment has raised questions about how Acosta handled the case.
Acosta now faces a lawsuit that also names President Donald Trump as a witness and accuses him of mishandling the case nearly a decade ago. However, according to lawyers, it's very unlikely Trump will be required to testify in the case.
A leading Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patty Murray, said she is concerned about whether Acosta would “stand up to political pressure” and advocate for workers as labor secretary.
Back in 2002, Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” and also said that "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."
A letter written by Acosta to media outlets in 2011 read, “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.”
While defending his decisions as the best possible outcome he wrote, “I supported that judgment then, and based on the state of the law as it then stood and the evidence known at the time, I would support that judgment again.”
“The treatment that he received while in state custody undermined the purpose of a jail sentence,” he added.
Acosta is serving as Florida International University law school dean. He was nominated as labor secretary by Trump after Andrew Puzder, a fast-food executive, withdrew.
Joel DeFabio, a well-known Miami defense lawyer who has represented numerous defendants in sex cases, said, “There still has been no clear explanation as to why Epstein received such preferential treatment. This thing just stinks. The elite take care of their own.”
Alexander Acosta should be in jail rather than being a nominee for Labor Secretary - he buckled to pressure that let Jeffrey Epstein off EZ.— Mt Hoodlum (@tg_baca) March 11, 2017
@cossa68 Trumps labor pick Alexander Acosta helped Epstein spend only 13 months in prison! Web of deception— Mr Operation Gladio (@IzaakMinty) February 26, 2017
Trump’s Labor Secretary Nominee Alexander Acosta Helped Infamous Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Avoid Federal Charges https://t.co/C7ByKBl2iC— End Times Alert (@endtimesalert) March 22, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joe Skipper