An investigation by the Department of Justice into the so-called sweetheart plea deal with alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein found that the federal prosecutors who oversaw the 2007 arrangement are at fault for merely exercising “poor judgment” in their handling of the case. The deal made with the sex offender, astonishingly light considering the evidence of his abuse, effectively ended the federal sex crimes investigation into whether there were more victims and other participants in his alleged trafficking ring — thereby allowing the politically-connected financier to escape more serious charges for well over a decade.
The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility opened the investigation into allegations of the attorneys’ “professional misconduct” in February 2019, after the Miami Herald reported that the non-prosecution agreement involved keeping the deal secret from the victims until it was presented in court, something prosecutors agreed to “despite a federal law to the contrary.” It also denied victims the opportunity to object and granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators,” thus protecting Epstein’s accomplices from a federal indictment in Florida. The same month the DOJ launched their investigation, District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that prosecutors in the Epstein case violated federal law by keeping the deal a secret from his victims, preventing them from the chance “to affect prosecutorial decisions.” Marra also wrote that the attorneys sought “to conceal the existence” of the agreement “and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility.”
The probe ended Thursday with no action against the federal prosecutors who handled the 2008 case, including ex-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was serving as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida when Epstein first faced accusations of running a sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of underage girls. Acosta resigned from the Trump administration last year amid renewed criticism over his handling of the deal, which also gave the well-connected financier apparent special treatment during his mere 13-month stay at Palm Beach County Jail. Through a generous work-release program, Epstein was permitted to leave jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week, and go to his office. A lawsuit filed shortly after his suicide in August 2019 found that Epstein arranged to pay for sex with two girls during the work-release program — one of whom he met when she was 17.
Acosta was foremost in helping engineer the controversial non-prosecution deal for the sexual predator. According to the executive summary of the investigation’s findings, it was Acosta who “made the pivotal decision to resolve the federal investigation of Epstein through a state-based plea and either developed or approved the terms of the initial offer to the defense that set the beginning point for the subsequent negotiations” that led to the non-prosecution agreement. The report, citing concerns about “legal issues, witness credibility, and the impact of a trial on the victims” purportedly held by members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office found that the prosecutors exercised “poor judgment” when they avoided trial by going with the non-prosecution deal. Ultimately, they determined, Acosta and his team of prosecutors did not break the law.
Acosta’s decision to bring charges against Epstein through the state, the review said, was a move that lacked transparency and left victims “feeling confused and ill-treated by the government,” a finding that essentially amounts to a slap on the wrist. “In sum, OPR concludes that the victims were not treated with the forthrightness and sensitivity expected by the department.”
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse decried the Justice Department’s conclusion in a statement on Thursday. “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,” the Republican senator said, adding: “Justice has not been served.”