On Friday, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta resigned in disgrace amid a firestorm about his role in cutting a light deal for high-powered wealth manager and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein as a federal prosecutor in Florida. Prior to resigning, Acosta gave a press conference in which he falsely tried to shift the blame for that decision onto state attorneys.
But according to a new in-depth analysis by the Washington Post, there are plenty of real reason why, back in 2008, Acosta was unwilling to prosecute what FBI agents thought was a slam-dunk case.
To begin with, noted the Post, author Conchita Sarnoff, who documented the Epstein case in "TrafficKing," said that "Acosta told her a few years after Epstein's dream team of prominent defense lawyers persuaded him to sign a non-prosecution deal ending the federal pursuit that 'he felt incapable of going up against those eight powerful attorneys. He felt his career was at stake.'"
"At every point along the case’s twisting path from the Palm Beach County police department through local and federal authorities, in West Palm Beach, Miami and Washington, the seemingly simple quest to stop a man who had taken advantage of dozens of young women ran up against three hard facts: Epstein had a knack for winning people over, he had enough money and power to buy the very best legal firepower, and a decade before the #MeToo movement, it was still fairly easy to cast abuse that was short of rape as mere misbehavior rather than a shattering, serious crime," said the Post.
That being said, Acosta and his office were well aware that Epstein's legal team was lying — the girls he was recruiting were in fact underage, and what was taking place at his parties was something a lot worse than "massages." They just feared going after him in court and against his "army of legal superstars."
The plea agreement ultimately sent Epstein to jail for 13 months for soliciting prostitution, with a generous work-release arrangement that let him leave custody for hours on end during weekdays. It also registered him as a low-level sex offender and required him to pay restitution to the victims. For comparison, in South Florida in 2008, although 9 out of 10 cases were settled through plea bargain, the median sentence was 10 years for sexual abuse, and just over eight years for pornography and prostitution.
The new federal case against Epstein could send him to prison for life.