Justice Department investigates Trump appointee over lax plea deal for alleged billionaire child molester
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported that the Department of Justice has opened a probe into the plea bargain President Donald Trump's Labor Secretary Alex Acosta cut with billionaire New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein while he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida:
The probe is in response to a request by Sen. Ben Sasse, a a Nebraska Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who raised questions about the case following a series of stories in the Miami Herald. The Herald articles detailed how Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and other DOJ attorneys worked hand-in-hand with defense attorneys to cut a lenient plea deal with multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008.
The investigation, headed up by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, will examine whether Acosta or other federal prosecutors engaged in professional misconduct by striking this agreement.
Epstein, a powerful and well-connected investor who managed the money of the mega-wealthy and ran in the same circles as Trump and former President Bill Clinton, was accused of luring and molesting over 100 underage girls, including runaways and foster children, at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. FBI records also suggest he trafficked the girls between his estates in Manhattan and New Mexico, and his private island in the Caribbean, for use in sex parties. A recent, multi-part expose by the Herald, "Perversion of Justice," detailed how Acosta met with Epstein's defense attorney and struck a mysteriously lax deal.
The agreement, in which Epstein admitted to one count of soliciting prostitution from a 14-year-old girl but dodged molestation and trafficking charges, put him in prison for only 13 months, concealed the full scope of his wrongdoing and the people complicit in his assaults from the public eye, and shut down an FBI investigation into the matter.
A separate, civil suit against Epstein was set to begin in December. This suit, filed by attorney Bradley Edwards, alleged malicious prosecution by Epstein when he sued Edwards in retaliation for representing the women he assaulted and might have resulted in some of those women testifying publicly about the extent of Epstein's actions for the first time. But at the last minute, Epstein settled that case for an undisclosed sum, preventing the women from testifying.