Labor Secretary Alex Acosta spoke with the press on Wednesday and did his best to shirk responsibility for letting financier Jeffrey Epstein off easy in a sex trafficking case involving underage girls. A former colleague was not having it.
Barry Krischer, the former Palm Beach state attorney, said Acosta had completely misrepresented the 2008 plea deal Acosta struck with Epstein’s lawyers.
Back when he was the United States attorney in Florida, Acosta approved a plea agreement that included two prostitution charges and required Epstein to register as a sex offender. Now, with Epstein accused of operating an underground sex ring in which he sexually assaulted children, people are asking why Acosta made the “deal of a lifetime” for the billionaire — as a Miami Herald investigation put it — despite an investigation that unearthed dozens of young victims.
Acosta said on Wednesday that he saw more value in taking the guilty plea that resulted in 13 months in prison for prostitution charges than in “rolling the dice” at trial. Epstein didn’t spend all of that time actually in prison, however. He was allowed to participate in a work-release program that let him go to his office six days a week.
“The district attorney of Palm Beach County recommended a single charge, and that charge resulted in no jail time at all. No registration as a sexual offender and no restitution to the victims,” Acosta also said.
Krischer, who was the Palm Beach state attorney at the time, disputed Acosta’s account. The recollection "is completely wrong," he said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Krischer said Acosta’s own office had drafted a 53-page indictment that would have carried a life sentence, but that it was “abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein’s lawyers and Mr. Acosta.” Krischer disavowed the notion that Acosta’s hands were tied in any way.
"The State Attorney’s Office was not a party to those meetings or negotiations, and definitely had no part in the federal non-prosecution agreement and the unusual confidentiality arrangement that kept everything hidden from the victims," he wrote.
He ended the statement by saying Acosta “should not be allowed to rewrite history.”
Epstein’s lawyers, meanwhile, have said the non-prosecution agreement brokered by Acosta in 2008 will be at the center of their defense against the new charges, according to CNN.
"To us, this indictment is essentially a do-over," said Reid Weingarten, one of Epstein’s lawyers. "This is the very stuff that was investigated by the feds in Florida."
Cover: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta speaks during a news conference at the Department of Labor, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)