US

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta Brokered A 2008 Plea Deal With Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, Faces Increased Calls To Resign

Alex Wong/Getty Images+Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Ellie Gardey Contributor

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is facing renewed backlash over striking a “sweetheart” plea deal for billionare Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 during his time as the United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida. Epstein is now facing a 45-year maximum sentence for child sex-trafficking from Manhattan federal prosecutors. 

“I don’t know how he can survive this,” Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst said of Acosta after the contents of the federal indictment on Epstein were released.

Acosta let Epstein off with a 13-month sentence in county jail with work-release privileges in 2008. His charges were reduced to two prostitution charges in state court.

Acosta agreed to keep Epstein’s plea deal secret from the victims, which was ruled illegal in 2017 by a federal judge in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) depart following their introductions of Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta (C) prior to Acosta's testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during his confirmation hearing March 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Acosta was questioned by members of the committee on his opinions relating to overtime rules during the early portion of the hearing. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 22: U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) depart following their introductions of Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta (C) prior to Acosta’s testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during his confirmation hearing March 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Miami Herald published a sweeping tell-all in November 2018 detailing how Epstein escaped charges in Miami despite evidence of child-sex trafficking and 80 women claiming to be molested or sexually abused by Epstein between 2001 and 2006. (RELATED: Alex Acosta’s Prosecution Of Sex Trafficking)

Acosta made a deal with Washington, D.C. attorney Jay Lefkowitz, his former colleague, at a breakfast meeting in October 2007, according to the Miami Herald. The deal closed an FBI probe into whether there were more victims, granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators,” kept the deal from the victims in violation of federal law, and gave Epstein a lenient sentence in state court.

“How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?” Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents victims of Epstein, told the Miami Herald. 

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

At the time, federal prosecutors in Miami had identified 36 underage victims, but they were not present at Epstein’s sentencing and most of them heard of Epstein’s sentencing from the news. 

A former Miami-Dade police sergeant told the Miami Herald that the FBI had enough evidence to put Epstein away for a long time, but were overruled by Acosta.

At his confirmation hearing for labor secretary, Acosta was questioned on his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally, saying, “At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing.”

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein opposed Acosta for labor secretary, and said at his confirmation hearing: “His handling of a case involving sex trafficking of underage girls when he was a U.S. attorney suggests he won’t put the interests of workers and everyday people ahead of the powerful and well-connected.’’

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: Ranking member U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (L) (D-WA) greets Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta (R) before Acosta's testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during his confirmation hearing March 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Acosta was questioned by members of the committee on his opinions relating to overtime rules during the early portion of the hearing. Also pictured is Sen. Marco Rubio (L) who introduced Acosta. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 22: Ranking member U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (L) (D-WA) greets Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta (R) before Acosta’s testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during his confirmation hearing March 22, 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

After the Miami Herald published the new information about Acosta’s decision to strike a plea deal, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio said, “There’s probably more to it than what you’ve seen,” Rubio said. “That man should have been in jail for a long time.”

Back in February, Republican Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse launched an investigation into the Department of Justice’s handling of the case against Jeffrey Epstein. 

The new charges against Epstein from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan focus on accusations that Epstein sexually assaulted girls at his Upper East Side home. Epstein will be charged with one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors and one count of sex trafficking of minors.

According to the new indictment, Epstein “enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit him.”

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 08: A protest group called “Hot Mess” hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

“Moreover, and in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein,” the indictment says. “In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.”

The girls were initially allured to perform massages, “which would be performed nude or partially nude, would become increasingly sexual in nature, and would typically include one or more sex acts.”

Acosta is now facing renewed pushback upon the release of the serious charges against Epstein.

In a press conference Monday, William Sweeney, Assistant Director-In-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office, said “I have the privilege to represent and stand among many who make it our mission to put predators behind bars where they belong, regardless of the predator’s power, wealth, or perceived connections.”