In 2017, Alexander Acosta, became the US Labor Secretary. His nomination coincidentally conjured up a lot of memories on how he sold out the cause of justice in the 2008 plea deal that he negotiated with the billionaire Jeffrey Epstein who had sexually abused numerous young girls. Instead of prosecuting Mr. Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, the Miami prosecutor Alexander Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges. He subsequently served just 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were never charged.
The victims had not been notified regarding this plea agreement as required by federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, so that they could contest it. In 2008, two of the victims did file a suit over their rights not being honored.
But justice has been denied them as Mr. Epstein did comply with the requirements of the plea deal and a federal prosecutor has a great deal of discretion as to how a plea deal is constructed.
You would never guess that the same prosecutor who pilloried President Bill Clinton over his sexual peccadilloes was none other than the very same attorney who defended the sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and helped to deny justice to his victims, Kenneth Star. Another famous attorney who was on his defense team was Alan Dershowitz.
Finally, on the 21st of February 2019, a federal judge ruled, that federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein.
But the judge did not void the plea agreement. There’s still a long way to go for justice to be served, but it’s a start.
Here’s the rest of the story….
For review, here are excerpts of the timeline of this case, as per the 11/28/18 Miami Herald report by Julie K. Brown:
August: “The U.S. attorney in Miami, Alexander Acosta, enters into direct discussions about the plea agreement; a motion to compel production of Epstein’s computers is delayed.”
September:” Federal prosecutors draw up several federal plea agreements that are rejected by Epstein and his attorneys. Epstein signs a non-prosecution agreement on Sept. 24, but his attorneys continue to delay his court appearance.”
“Alexander Acosta has been criticized for his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case as U.S. attorney. He later became the dean of Florida International University’s law school and, later still, President Trump’s secretary of labor.”
“October 2007: “With the non-prosecution agreement still being debated, Acosta meets with Epstein lawyer Jay Lefkowitz at the West Palm Beach Marriott on Okeechobee Road to discuss finalizing a deal. Among the terms agreed upon: that the victims would not be notified, that the deal would be kept under seal and all grand jury subpoenas would be canceled.”
“The Marriott hotel in West Palm Beach, at 1001 Okeechobee Blvd., is where U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta met with Jeffrey Epstein’s attorney to work out a plea arrangement.”
November 2007: “Epstein’s lawyers object to an addendum to the agreement. The provision called for a special master to appoint an attorney to represent Epstein victims’ rights to civil compensation.”
December 2007: “The two sides continue to debate the addendum. Epstein attorney Kenneth Starr asks for a review of the agreement by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, further delaying its execution. Victims are told the investigation is continuing.”
January: “Epstein attorney, Lefkowitz, calls Acosta, telling him his client will not go through with the agreement because it requires him to register as a sex offender.”
February: “With the plea negotiations and the Justice Department review still in limbo, the FBI continues its probe, locating more witnesses and evidence.”
March: “Preparations are made for a new federal grand jury presentation. In court documents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notes that Epstein’s victims are being harassed by his lawyers, who are not specifically named.”
May: “The Justice Department issues finding that, if a plea deal is not reached, Epstein can be federally prosecuted.”
“Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein is a free man, despite sexually abusing dozens of underage girls according to police and prosecutors. His victims have never had a voice, until now.”
June: “Epstein’s lawyers revisit plea negotiations, and on June 30, Epstein appears in a Palm Beach County courtroom. He pleads guilty to state charges: one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution with a minor under the age of 18. He is sentenced to 18 months in jail, followed by a year of community control or house arrest. He is adjudicated as a convicted sex offender who must register twice a year in Florida.”
July: “Epstein’s victims learn about his plea in state court after the fact. They file an emergency petition to force federal prosecutors to comply with the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which mandates certain rights for crime victims, including the right to be informed about plea agreements and the right to appear at sentencing.”
August:”Epstein’s victims learn that he has already been sent to jail, and that the federal investigation is over. They seek to have his plea agreement unsealed, but federal prosecutors argue against releasing the agreement, commencing a yearlong court battle to learn the terms of Epstein’s plea bargain.”
October: “Epstein begins work release from the county stockade. He is picked up by his private driver six days a week and transported to an office in West Palm Beach, where he accepts visitors for up to 12 hours a day. He returns to the stockade in the evenings to sleep.”
Link: Complete story
On February 21, 2019, Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald penned the following report, “Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules”
“Federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled Thursday (2/21/19).
“While the decision marks a victory for crime victims, the federal judge, Kenneth A. Marra, stopped short of overturning Epstein’s plea deal, or issuing an order resolving the case. He instead gave federal prosecutors 15 days to confer with Epstein’s victims and their attorneys to come up with a settlement. The victims didn’t seek money or damages as part of the suit.”
“It’s not clear whether the victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, can, as part of the settlement, demand that the government prosecute Epstein. But others are calling on the Justice Department to take a new look at the case in the wake of the judge’s ruling.”
“As a legal matter, the non-prosecution agreement entered into by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida does not bind other U.S. Attorneys in other districts. They are free, if they conclude it is appropriate to do so, to bring criminal actions against Mr. Epstein and his co-conspirators,’’ said lawyer David Boies, representing two of Epstein’s victims who claim they were trafficked by Epstein in New York and other areas.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced it was opening a probe of the case in response to calls from three dozen members of Congress. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, on Thursday asked the DOJ to also re-open Epstein’s plea deal.
“The fact that it’s taken this long to get this far is heartbreaking and infuriating,’’ said Sasse. “The Department of Justice should use this opportunity to reopen its non-prosecution agreement so that Epstein and anyone else who abused these children are held accountable.”
“Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wild — Jane Doe No. 1 in the case — said he was elated at the judge’s ruling, but admitted he is troubled that it took 11 years to litigate. He blamed federal prosecutors for needlessly dragging it out when they could have remedied their error after it was brought to their attention in 2008.”
“Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the victims, they also misled the girls into believing that the FBI’s sex trafficking case against Epstein was still ongoing — when in fact, prosecutors had secretly closed it after sealing the plea bargain from the public record.”
“The decision follows a three-part series published by the Miami Herald in November, “Perversion of Justice,’’ which detailed how federal prosecutors collaborated with Epstein’s lawyers to arrange the deal, then hid it from his victims and the public so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.”
“The 66-year-old mogul lured scores of teenage girls from troubled homes — some as young as 13 — as part of a cult-like scheme to sexually abuse them by offering them money to give him massages and promising some of them he would send them to college or help them find careers.”
“Marra, noting that he reviewed affidavits, depositions and interrogatories — presumably some of them sealed — showed “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others, ’’ the judge said.”
“Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and he served just 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail.”
“Epstein’s victims were not told the case was closed until it was too late for them to appear at his sentencing and possibly upend the deal. Two of them filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 2008, claiming that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants victims of federal crimes a series of rights, including the ability to confer with prosecutors about a possible plea deal.”
“Marra said that while prosecutors had the right to resolve the case in any way they saw fit, they violated the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein’s victims.”
“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’
“Michelle Licata, who was molested by Epstein when she was 14, said the judge’s decision was “a step for justice.’’ But she still questions why federal authorities have failed to open a new case against Epstein, given that more victims and evidence has come to light in recent years.”
“They should see if they can prosecute him for something. I mean, really prosecute him — instead of giving him 13 months where he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. I just want to see him face some consequences. ’’
“Francey Hakes, a former federal prosecutor, said the Crime Victims’ Rights Act doesn’t spell out any punishment for violating its terms, so it would set a precedent to re-open Epstein’s agreement.”
“Epstein will surely argue he complied with the agreement, relied upon it, and plead guilty under it so it can’t be overturned in fairness to him,’’ she said. Ultimately, it is simply shocking the Government went to the lengths they did to keep the victims in the dark in order to make a serious predator’s high priced defense team happy. Justice should not, and does not, look like this.’’
Link to report and judge’s opinion: Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules