In an excellent Miami Herald report (November 28, 2018), Julie K Brown wrote that Florida billionaire money manager Jeffery Epstein trafficked in underage girls at his Palm Beach Mansion between 2001 and 2006. Stories floated for years that Epstein, a longtime friend of President Trump, was a “pimp” for the rich and famous, some of whom wanted to have anonymous sex with underage girls. His collection of famous friends included former President Bill Clinton (who often ditched his Secret Service detail to take flights with Epstein on the billionaire pimp’s personal jet, “The Lolita Express”), former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, former Columbian President Andres Pastrana, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and actor Kevin Spacey (who is currently facing felony sexual assault charges involving a teenaged male victim), among many others.
Writing in a February 22, 2019 Vox news report, journalists Jane Coaston and Anna North noted there has been longstanding speculation that both Trump and Clinton “might have participated in [Epstein’s] abuse of girls.”
Unequal Justice for Rich and Powerful
The Vox report said that in 2007 the federal government had prepared a 53-page sex crimes indictment against Epstein that could have sent him to prison for life. But Epstein, through a battery of attorneys led by former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Watergate Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, along with an army of high-priced investigators, managed to secure a “sweetheart” plea agreement with the then Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta (a Republican appointed to his position in 2005 by President George W. Bush). The deal with AUSA Acosta and his chief prosecutor, A. Marie Villafana, not only allowed Epstein to avoid federal and state prison time but allowed the billionaire pedophile to serve his 18-month federal sentence, of which he served 13, in what Vox described as “a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail.”
The deal Epstein attorneys reached with Acosta is called a “non-prosecution agreement.” Interestingly, it also precluded “initiation of any and all criminal charges which might be brought” against several potential co-conspirators, fueling speculation that the U.S. Attorney’s Offices was also shielding other high-profile perpetrators.
To make matters worse (or better if you happened to be Epstein or one of his rich and famous friends), AUSA Acosta agreed, Vox reported, to violate federal law (Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004) by keeping the plea agreement secret “from the victims, preventing them from showing up in court to try to challenge it.” In a separate civil suit, A federal judge in Florida has since ruled that the agreement violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act because it failed to notify victims of the 2008 agreement or, in some cases, misled the victims “to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility.”
In February 2017, Acosta was appointed Secretary of Labor by President Trump. The Miami Herald report, however, reawakened the ghosts of the outrageously generous plea deal Acosta negotiated with the alleged serial child sexual predator.
U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate
The latest controversy swirling around the Epstein case has prompted the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to inform Congress that it has opened an investigation into Acosta’s alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the Epstein case while Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has asked Congress for the authority to also investigate Acosta’s handling of that case.
Trump Tweets Support for Fantastic Job
In response to the recent finding by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra that Acosta had violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act in his handling of the Epstein case, President Trump offered gushing praise for his Labor Secretary, telling the media that Acosta has done a “fantastic” job in that position.
While the Trump Justice Department has opened an investigation into the Acosta/Epstein matter, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida released this statement to the news media:
“For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures…”
This statement is seriously misleading to the public.
Title 9 of the U.S. Justice Department Manual requires approval of the DOJ’s leadership in three guilty plea situations: DOJ approval required for consent to Plea of Nolo Contendere, JM 9-16.010; DOJ approval required for Consent to Alford Plea, JM 9-16.015; and DOJ approval required for Plea Agreements involving Members of Congress, Federal Judges, Extradition, Deportation, and Air Piracy cases, JM 9-16-.020
Non-Prosecution Plea Agreements do not require DOJ approval. These agreements, and a host of other plea agreements spelled out in JM 9-16.030-500, are negotiated at the local level by AUSAs with defendant attorneys.
Purpose of Plea Agreement
JM 9-27.400 defines the very purpose and requirements of a plea agreement:
“Plea agreements should reflect the totality of a defendant’s conduct. These agreements are governed by the same fundamental principles as are charging decisions: prosecutors will generally seek a plea to the most serious offense that is consistent with the nature and full extent of the defendant’s conduct and likely to result in a sustainable conviction, informed by an individualized assessment of all of the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Charges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to induce a plea; nor should charges be abandoned to arrive at a plea bargain that does not reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct.”
The Epstein plea agreement did not reflect the “totality” of the billionaire’s child predatory sexual actions nor did it remotely reflect the “seriousness” of those actions. It defies credulity to think that U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey at the time of Epstein’s June 20, 2008 sentencing—or any of his departmental staff—would have approved a non-prosecution plea agreement in a case in which the FBI and federal prosecutors had identified at least 36 underage victims. The Miami Herald would later identify at least 80 underage victims.
This non-prosecution plea agreement was extended to Epstein, we believe, not only because of his enormous wealth but to protect the rich and powerful people to whom he provided underage girls.
It is not likely that any ensuing Justice Department investigation will have a serious legal or professional, much less a political, impact on Alexander Acosta’s current government position. The former AUSA is now in the political orbit of the Trump administration which has already established an entrenched love affair with political corruption and criminal wrongdoing.