Former state prosecutor fires back at Alex Acosta after getting thrown under the bus for the Epstein case

Former state prosecutor fires back at Alex Acosta after getting thrown under the bus for the Epstein case
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

In an attempt to deflect blame for the botched handling of the 2008 Florida case against sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta threw state prosecutors under the bus on Wednesday in a press conference.

Back then, he was a U.S. attorney working in Florida. Acosta said the extraordinarily generous non-prosecution Epstein received, which blocked his prosecution on federal sex trafficking charges and gave him an extremely light sentence, was an alternative to the state prosecutors' position, which was to let the financier walk away.

But Barry Krischer, the state attorney for Palm Beach County during the time of the Epstein case, said in a new comment to NBC News' Michael Del Moro that he can "emphatically state that Mr. Acosta’s recollection of this matter is completely wrong." He said Acosta was trying to "rewrite history."

He noted that Acosta's account of the episode relies on the idea that federal prosecutors were taking "a back seat to state prosecutors."

"That’s not how the system works in the real world," he said.

In Krischer's account, the state prosecutors brought evidence to a grand jury, which produced an indictment against Epstein on one count of felony solicitation of prostitution  — the charge he would eventually plead guilty to. But it was only after that, he said, that the U.S attorney's office produced a 53-page indictment of Epstein. That indictment was never made public though because it was abandoned "after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein’s lawyers and Mr. Acosta," according to Krischer.

"If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the State’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53- page indictment that his own office drafted," Krischer said. "Instead, Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a Non-Prosecution Agreement in violation of the Crime Victim’s Rights Act."

While Krischer's points about Acosta's power as U.S. attorney are correct, the former state prosecutor has also come under scrutiny for his actions during the case.

Julie Brown, a Miami Herald journalist who has been working to bring new attention to the story, reported that the cops working on the case believed Krischer was pressuring them to back off Epstein, encouraging to "downgrade the case to a misdemeanor or drop it altogether."

Brown also pointed out an addition discrepancy in Acosta's story on Wednesday. The FBI, she said, "was developing evidence that this was an international sex trafficking scheme" and did not approve of Acosta's deal. That undercuts Acosta's claim that there was a major risk of Epstein walking free without the non-prosecution agreement.

This story has been updated with additional details and context.

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