- Alexander Acosta on Wednesday blamed a former Florida state prosecutor for mishandling the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein.
- Acosta said at a press conference that Barry Krischer intended to let Epstein off with no jail time despite allegations that he solicited sex from underage girls.
- Krischer, a Democrat, prosecuted a case against Rush Limbaugh. He is also the namesake of a YWCA humanitarian award.
During a press conference Wednesday, Alexander Acosta, the secretary of labor and a former federal prosecutor in Miami, repeatedly blamed a former Florida state attorney for mishandling the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire sex offender who has been accused of molesting dozens of underage girls.
“Letting what the state attorney was ready to do go[ing] forward — would have been absolutely awful,” Acosta said Wednesday, while defending his decision to strike a plea deal with Epstein in 2008.
Acosta was referring to Barry Krischer, a Democrat who served as state attorney in Palm Beach through 2008.
Acosta said his prosecutors intervened in the state case after learning Epstein would be allowed to enter a plea agreement that would keep him out of jail and not require him to register as a sex offender. He said his office faced the difficult decision of either forcing Epstein to accept a guilty plea that would give him some jail time, or “roll the dice” by taking Epstein to trial. (RELATED: Acosta Defends Role In Jeffrey Epstein Case, Says Original Plea Deal Required No Jail Time)
“Simply put, the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing. Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable. And they became involved. Our office became involved,” Acosta said.
The end result was a plea deal that gave Epstein 13 months in Florida state jail on one charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor. The deal required him to register as a sex offender and compensate his victims.
Epstein was indicted Monday by federal prosecutors in New York on charges that he engaged in sex trafficking of underage girls between 2002 and 2005.
Krischer has avoided most of the public scrutiny over the handling of the original Epstein investigation. That has fallen mostly on Acosta, thanks in part to his cabinet position in the Trump administration.
While in office, Krischer’s highest profile case involved Rush Limbaugh, who Krischer accused of “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs.
Limbaugh’s lawyers and supporters accused Krischer of heavy-handed and politically motivated tactics, such as subpoenaing medical records and pushing for 10 felony charges against the conservative radio host.
Since leaving government, Krischer has become involved in social causes that would seem at odds with his handling of the Epstein case.
Krischer on Sept. 14, 2018, hosted a training session for the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, aimed at teaching prosecutors and investigators about the “dynamics of sexual assault” and “building the strongest possible case, evidence-based prosecution and incorporating domestic violence statutes when necessary.”
Krischer is also the namesake of an annual humanitarian award granted by the Palm Beach County YWCA. The award is granted every October, which is domestic violence awareness month.
The YWCA’s website appears to have removed references to the Krischer award, but a Facebook page for the Palm Beach YWCA says that the award was established in 2008, and “recognizes a law enforcement, social services, legal or health care professional who has gone beyond the normal ‘call of duty’ to assist or advocate for a victim of domestic violence.”
The organization did not return a request for comment on whether Krischer has been scrubbed from its website.
The Miami Herald published a scathing expose of both Acosta and Krischer in November 2018.
The article alleged investigators who handled the Palm Beach case said Krischer pressured them to downgrade charges against the billionaire to a misdemeanor, or to drop the case completely.
Joseph Recarey, a detective who worked the Epstein case, told The Herald that Alan Dershowtiz, Epstein’s lawyer, flew to Florida to meet privately with Krischer.
Recarey also told The Herald that in May 2006, he drew up probable cause affidavits that charged Epstein and three associates with a slew of sex crimes. But instead of pushing forward with the case, Krischer referred the case to a state grand jury, which returned an indictment on a single count of soliciting prostitution.
According to The Herald, Recarey said Krischer told him he did not believe Epstein’s accusers. Only two out of more than a dozen of Epstein’s alleged victims testified before the grand jury.
Palm Beach police chief Michael Reiter also told The Herald that Krischer quickly changed his position on the Epstein case.
“Early on, it became clear that things had changed, from Krischer saying, ‘we’ll put this guy away for life,’ to ‘these are all the reasons why we aren’t going to prosecute this,'” he told The Herald.
Reiter referred the case to the FBI, which opened its investigation in July 2006.
Krischer could not be reached for comment immediately.
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