Federal prosecutors, including a current member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet, broke the law when they offered wealthy financier and accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein a plea bargain in 2008 that allowed him to get off easy, a judge ruled. Epstein served only 13 months after being accused of sexually abusing dozens of young girls.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra said Thursday that prosecutors — including Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who was a U.S. attorney in Miami at the time of the plea deal — ignored evidence that Epstein had been operating a sex trafficking ring of underage girls, according to the Miami Herald. Epstein was allowed to negotiate a non-prosecution agreement, or a deal that granted him immunity from federal charges, by pleading guilty to two state charges.
His accomplices were also granted immunity, despite allegations that Epstein had directed others to engage in abuse.
The judge's decision comes just a few weeks after the Justice Department opened up a probe into the decade-old plea bargain.
Between 1999 and 2007, Epstein abused more than 30 young girls overseas and in his U.S. mansions, Judge Marra wrote in his ruling. In violation of federal law, Epstein also “traveled in interstate and international commerce to sexually abuse Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, and others,” according to the documents.
The FBI eventually determined Jane Does 1 and 2 were victims of sexual abuse in 2007 and promised one of the girls that the Justice Department would pursue its “best efforts” to protect her rights. U.S. attorneys, including Acosta, never explained their reasoning for a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) to Jane Doe 1 or told the victims the agreement had been signed. The deal was sealed to the public before the girls could argue against it.
Epstein’s lawyers were aware the Justice Department was “deliberately keeping the NPA secret from the victims and, indeed, had sought assurances to that effect,” according to the ruling.
“Particularly problematic was the government’s decision to conceal the existence of the NPA and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility. When the government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading,” Marra wrote.
The ruling didn’t issue any sort of punishment. Rather, the government and the victims will have 15 days to come up with a resolution.
Cover: United States Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta speaks during an event supporting veterans and military families in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (Photo by: Andrew Harrer / Pool via CNP)