On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defended his role in a plea agreement a decade ago with Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested this week on sex trafficking charges in New York.
An alleged perv who knows presidents
By EJ Montini
If there is justice in this world, the alleged pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein will never again see daylight.
And the former federal prosecutor, and now secretary of Labor under President Donald Trump, Alex Acosta, will resign or be fired or be impeached.
And every high-profile enabler, associate, abettor or accomplice — no matter which political party, or how rich, or how powerful — will be brought down as well.
Scum one, scum all.
Federal prosecutors in Florida under Acosta’s direction dropped the ball and ignored the law in Epstein’s sweetheart deal a decade ago. He could have gone to trial and possibly gotten locked up for life but got only 13 months in the county lockup after pleading guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor. He got work release during the day.
But the local news media kept at it.
A powerful investigative report by The Miami Herald reawakened federal prosecutors to the case and sent Epstein back to court.
It's difficult to know how many of his famous friends are sweating it out, wondering whether Epstein is going to try to cut a deal by naming names or pointing fingers.
The reason prosecutors were able to reopen the case is that under the original arrangement, Acosta kept the deal from the victims.
That alone should be enough to send Acosta packing. It should have been enough to keep him from being appointed Labor secretary by President Trump. It didn’t.
Trump is one of Epstein’s many famous friends.
In a 2002 New York magazine article, Trump is quoted as saying, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
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But Trump isn’t alone. Epstein has many, many wealthy, famous friends. Like former President Bill Clinton. And Harvard Law professor and fierce Trump defender Alan Dershowitz. And Great Britain’s Prince Andrew.
But if there is one thing Americans can agree upon it’s that there should be no favor for human traffickers or those who prey on children. None. Rich. Poor. Republican. Democrat.
The prosecutors in New York seem to have that plan.
The U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, made a public appeal to other women who might have been abused by Epstein, asking them to come forward. He said, “They deserve their day in court, and we are proud to stand up for them by bringing this indictment.”
Under his old deal Epstein, now 66, got off easy. The new charges could lead to as much as 45 years in prison.
Hedge fund managers like Epstein don’t much fancy prison. But they know how to make deals. That’s got to have some very powerful people sweating.
EJ Montini is a columnist at The Arizona Republic, where this column originally appeared. Follow him on Twitter @ejmontini
What others are saying
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, statement: "We believe that we proceeded appropriately that, based on the evidence — and not just my opinion, but I have shared the affidavit — based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register. I understand what the victims say. And I'm not here to say that I can stand in their shoes or that I can address their concerns. I'm here to say we did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. He needed to go to jail."
The Miami Herald, editorial: "In reality, Acosta’s current job has nothing to do with his former position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Except for this: He is an ethically compromised public servant who has failed to address his suspect actions in this case, but he continues to act on citizens’ behalf in the public domain. In December, we said: 'Acosta is now damaged goods. He should realize it and move on. He does not deserve to be in the halls of power — he abused his power so tragically.' As evidence grows against Epstein, through both the Miami Herald’s pit-bull reporting and because a U.S. attorney is committed to seeing justice done, it is evidence, too, that not only did Acosta fail to get it right in 2008, but also that he didn’t care to. He has to go."
Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, USA TODAY: "While the number of alleged victims against Epstein and failure of Acosta to confer with them before the plea agreement was made are certainly causes for concern, the unfortunate reality is that the outcome of Epstein’s original indictment is not necessarily out of the ordinary for these types of cases. ... The reality is that sex trafficking laws are applied differently across jurisdictions and circumstances, while sex trafficking crimes are notoriously difficult to prove in a court of law. Victims are often erroneously perceived as consenting participants and have credibility gaps exploited during trial. As a result, prosecutors typically use a variety of tactics to obtain convictions without litigation, including charge bargaining and plea bargaining. "
What our readers are saying
Apparently, the plea deal wasn't much of a deterrent to future pedophile activities. Acosta failed the people he was meant to protect.
— Jerry Schull
Just because others failed the young women of this country doesn't make Acosta's failure any less egregious. It isn't helpful when this failure is called partisan politics. It was a failure regardless of the fact that it isn't the only one. Quit making excuses, a failure is a failure.
— Robin Cox
You can't look at yesterday's news with today's mentality. Of course this was political. Of course power, corruption and influencing went on.
— Joe George
What Acosta did years ago was the best deal he could get. Had they gone the way the state wanted to go, Epstein could very well have gone free.
— Mary Kittel
This article originally appeared on USATNetwork: Alex Acosta must resign for Jeffrey Epstein plea deal: Today's talker