The Justice Department concluded Thursday that former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta merely exercised “poor judgement” by allowing Jeffrey Epstein to serve only one year in jail despite evidence of underage sex trafficking — outraging a senator who said the feds failed victims at every turn.
The Justice Department and FBI presented Epstein victims Thursday with the results of a review of Acosta’s handling of the Epstein case from 2006 to 2008 while serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. The review by DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility uncovered no misconduct.
“While OPR did not find that Department attorneys engaged in professional misconduct, OPR concluded that the victims were not treated with the forthrightness and sensitivity expected by the Department. OPR also concluded that former U.S. Attorney Acosta exercised poor judgment by deciding to resolve the federal investigation through the non-prosecution agreement and when he failed to make certain that the state of Florida intended to and would notify victims identified through the federal investigation about the state plea hearing,” the Justice Department said.
Acosta’s office conducted unusual negotiations with Epstein’s powerhouse team of lawyers that resulted in a non-prosecution agreement allowing the perv to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008 and serve 13 months in Palm Beach County jail.
Subsequent litigation revealed that the feds had amassed ample evidence Epstein ran an underage sex trafficking scheme. Federal prosecutors also kept Epstein victims in the dark about the deal, violating the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act, a judge ruled. Epstein allegedly continued abusing girls while serving his sentence due to his participation in a work-release program.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said the findings were woefully inadequate.
“Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’ — it is a disgusting failure. Americans ought to be enraged," Sasse, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, said in a release. “Jeffrey Epstein should be rotting behind bars today, but the Justice Department failed Epstein’s victims at every turn. The DOJ’s crooked deal with Epstein effectively shut down investigations into his child sex trafficking ring and protected his co-conspirators in other states. Justice has not been served.”
Acosta resigned as President Trump’s labor secretary last year amid questions about his handling of the Epstein case.
Jack Scarola, an attorney for six Epstein victims based in Fort Lauderdale, called the meeting “frustrating.” Victims were not satisfied, but understood that the DOJ investigation was very limited in scope, he said.
“They admittedly never looked at the quality of the evidence against Epstein. They did not examine whether there had been any abuse of proprietorial discretion. Those are major issues,” Scarola said.
Acosta had told a “blatant lie” when he claimed the Epstein case appeared weak at the time of the plea, Scarola added.
The broad non-prosecution agreement, which granted immunity to Epstein’s co-conspirators, was unprecedented in Justice Department history, the feds admitted during the presentation, according to Scarola.
Manhattan federal prosecutors charged Epstein last year with sex trafficking of minors. He hanged himself in a jail cell at the age of 66. Epstein’s alleged chief enabler, Ghislaine Maxwell, is awaiting trial for allegedly grooming his victims.
The Justice Department said the review would inform guidelines for prosecutors around the country.
“We salute the courage of survivors as they again are confronted with these horrible crimes and their aftermath,” the Justice Department said.
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