Federal investigators are probing the decade-old plea bargain — negotiated by a former prosecutor who’s now in President Trump’s Cabinet — that allowed the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein to evade federal charges over allegations that he sexually assaulted underage girls.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into the 2007 plea deal after repeated requests from Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. The Nebraska senator was prompted by a Miami Herald investigation into allegations that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta let Epstein, now 66, off easy when he was a U.S. attorney in Miami for essentially running a sex cult. His alleged sexual encounters with dozens of underage girls occurred from 1999 to 2005 in mansions in Palm Beach, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the New York Times.
"For more than a decade, this prosecution has been reviewed in great detail by newspaper articles, television reports, books, and Congressional testimony. Department of Justice leadership, likewise, reviewed the matter at the time, and the Department has continued to defend the Southern District of Florida’s actions across three administrations and several attorneys general on the grounds that the actions taken were in accordance with Department practices, procedures, and the law," a Department of Labor spokesperson said in an emailed statement, adding that Acosta "welcomes the OPR's additional review of this matter."
The DOJ investigation is being handled by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, according to a letter Sasse posted to his website from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, and will examine allegations that government lawyers “committed professional misconduct in the manner in which the Epstein criminal matter was resolved.”
“Jeffrey Epstein is a child rapist and there’s not a single mom or dad in America who shouldn’t be horrified by the fact that he received a pathetically soft sentence,” Sasse said in a statement after the investigation was announced. “The victims of Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring deserve this investigation — and so do the American people and the members of law enforcement who work to put these kinds of monsters behind bars.”
Through the 2007 plea deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to two state charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor, registered as a sex offender, and served 13 months in jail, according to the New York Times, although he was granted generous work-release. After he got out of jail, the plea deal assured he’d have immunity from further investigations into his co-conspirators. Epstein was accused of running a sex ring out of his Palm Beach and Virgin Islands estates.
Cover: The home of Jeffrey Epstein has a large waterfront footprint in the Town of Palm Beach, not far from President Trump's Mar-a-Lago. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)