The endless and exhausting breaking news generated by the White House sometimes overwhelms other important stories. The Miami Herald had a story the other day about Alexander Acosta – the current Secretary of Labor – and his involvement in the remarkably lenient treatment of Jeffrey Epstein, a Florida billionaire, and serial sexual abuser of underage women.
In October, 2007, Acosta, then U.S. Attorney in Florida, was approached by Jay Leftkowitz, a former colleague at Kirkland & Ellis. Leftkowitz represented Epstein who had been accused of creating and overseeing a cult-like enterprise where underage girls were delivered to his waterfront mansion so that Epstein could sexually abuse them. Additionally, there was some evidence that Epstein was trafficking young girls from overseas for sexual activities at properties he owned in New York and the Caribbean. Epstein was facing a 53 page federal indictment that should have landed him in jail for the rest of his life. But that isn’t what happened. [The article, by Julie K. Brown discusses Epstein’s depravity in detail. Be prepared].
A plea deal was struck that morning between Acosta and Leftkowitz. The two men met at a Marriott Hotel in West Palm Beach, some 70 miles away from prying eyes in Miami. The deal was very, very, very lenient considering the allegations. The deal[referred to as a “non-prosecution agreement”] shut down an on-going federal probe seeking to identify other victims. And it shut down any inquiries into whether any of Epstein’s rich powerful friends may have shared his interest in young girls.
Epstein was required to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices received immunity from ALL federal charges. But the deal didn’t stop there. Immunity was also given to “any potential co-conspirators” who were involved. And, perhaps most shocking, Acosta agreed[possibly in violation of federal law] that the victims would not be made aware of the arrangement. The agreement was sealed until after judicial approval – thereby depriving the victims of the opportunity to show up and object.
[As a side note, Epstein did serve time for the two state charges. But not in a regular jail cell. He was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. And, he was allowed work release privileges – which allowed him to leave the jail six days a week for 12 hours at a time, to go to an office in West Palm Beach. And all of that was permitted even though sex offenders do not normally qualify for work release].
The Herald story identified 80 women who were molested or sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. Many of them have since battled mental health issues and addictions. Other victims had criminal troubles. While Epstein had to pay damages to 36 women identified by the FBI, settlements weren’t consummated until after his lawyers pried into every aspect of their personal lives in order to ruin their reputations.
Epstein and his team of lawyers have not responded to requests for interviews. While Epstein has sat for depositions in approximately 24 lawsuits filed by his victims, he routinely refuses to answer questions, asserting 5th Amendment privileges.
In 2011, Epstein sought to have his sex offender status reduced in New York. A prosecutor from the New York District Attorney’s office argued the motion on behalf of Epstein. [Yes, a prosecutor sought relief for Epstein]. New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholtz, however was having none of it. She denied the motion, commenting that “I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this.”
In 2011 Acosta attempted to explain his conduct by suggesting he was pressured by the high profile legal team assembled by Epstein[which included Alan Dershowitz, Roy Black and none other than Ken Starr].
Mike Fisten, a former Miami Dade Police Sergeant was a member of the FBI Organized Crime Task Force. Fisten thought that the FBI had sufficient evidence to put Epstein away for many, many years. But the FBI was overruled by Acosta. Fisten noted that “The day that a sitting U.S. Attorney is afraid of a lawyer or afraid of a defendant is a very said day in this country.”
And now? Acosta is now rumored to be on the short list for the highest law enforcement post in the country – Attorney General.