A decade before Alexander Acosta, President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, was put on a list to potentially serve as the country’s new attorney general, the then up-and-coming federal prosecutor in Florida was facing the biggest case of his life — one that involved Jeffrey Epstein, a Palm Beach multi-millionaire accused of sexually abusing at least 36 underage victims as the head of a massive sex trafficking ring. Epstein, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Trump, and Prince Andrew, was facing a lifetime in federal prison.
But, as Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald reports, in an extraordinary and unusual plea agreement negotiated between Acosta and Epstein’s legal team, the wealthy hedge fund manager was sentenced to just 13 months in the county jail and given a non-prosecution agreement that ended an FBI probe aimed at identifying more victims and collaborators who took part in Epstein’s crimes. In violation of federal law, Accosta agreed to keep the deal from the victims — preventing any of them from appearing in court to try to prevent the deal from taking place.
“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, 31, an Epstein victim who said she met him when she was just 14. Now in their 20s and 30s, Wild and dozens of Epstein’s victims — The Miami Herald identified 80 women who say they were abused by the millionaire between 2001 and 2006 — are hoping that two ongoing civil lawsuits will finally give them at least some measure of justice. One case involving Epstein and lawyer Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor representing some of Epstein’s victims, will give the women the chance to testify in court for the first time. A second lawsuit accuses Acosta of breaking the law and conspiring with Epstein to avoid media scrutiny and deceive his victims. If successful, it would invalidate the original non-prosecution agreement — and potentially allow for another trial that could send him to federal prison.
When Wild met Epstein, she told the Herald, she wore braces, was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the school band, and an A-student at her local middle school. Wild said that Epstein offered her and other girls from poor families $200 to $300 to give him a massage at his luxurious mansion. He paid Wild to recruit other girls, who were also paid to find more themselves. When police finally began unraveling what investigators described as a massive sexual pyramid scheme, it started with just one girl who revealed the name of two girls who recruited her. Those girls then named their recruiters, and so on, until soon police had uncovered a massive pool of victims. Police said that the girls, despite not knowing each other, all told the same story — Epstein would pay them to massage them while half or completely naked, before proceeding to molest them and pay them additional money to convince them to stay quiet and find him new victims. According to another lawsuit, still pending in New York, Epstein also used an international modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador, and Brazil.
“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old,” said Wild. “He was involved in my life for years.”
Watch the video below to hear from victims and government officials talking about the explosive case:
Long before #MeToo became the catalyst for a women's movement about sexual assault — and a decade before the fall of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and U.S. Olympic gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar — there was Jeffrey Edward Epstein. #PerversionofJustice pic.twitter.com/z3rIvzQWE9
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) November 28, 2018
Read the full story at The Miami Herald.