A plea agreement with financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had a part in when he was a U.S.attorney violated federal law, a judge ruled Thursday.
Officials with Acosta’s office and the White House had not responded to requests for comment at the time this story was published.
Florida-based U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra said he reviewed evidence showing that Epstein sexually abused more than 30 underage girls at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere.
“In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually,” the judge wrote. “Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.”
The judge said Acosta — then the U.S. attorney in Miami — helped Epstein negotiate a non-prosecution agreement, but violated federal law by not properly informing victims about what they were doing.
The Crime Victims’ Rights Act promises victims that the Justice Department would make its “best efforts” to protect a victim, the filing said. It allows victims the “reasonable right” to confer with the U.S. attorneys handling the case.
The CVRA also guarantees the victims the right to “be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving [a] . . . plea.”
The deal reached between Acosta and Epstein’s attorneys allowed him to not be prosecuted in federal court, and instead sentenced in state court. The immunity from prosecution also extended to some of Epstein’s co-conspirators.
Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges and served 13 months in county jail, according to the Miami Herald. The victims were not told of the agreement or sentencing until it was too late to intervene.
The judge found it “particularly problematic” that the government decided to conceal the existence of the agreement and “mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility.”
“While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the NPA with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims,” the decision said. “Instead, the victims were told to be “patient” while the investigation proceeded.”
The judge’s decision comes in the wake of a November investigation by the Miami Herald which revealed that the Town of Palm Beach police found “Epstein had been operating a “cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into its handling of Epstein’s case.
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