Federal prosecutors, including U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, broke the law in agreeing to grant serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein a plea deal and not notify his victims, a judge has ruled.
Acosta, who was at the time an assistant U.S. attorney, acted illegally in 2008 when he failed to inform Epstein’s underage victims that his office was preparing to offer the Palm Beach multi-millionaire a non-prosecution agreement, Florida federal court judge Kenneth Marra wrote in an opinion handed down on Thursday.
Under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Acts, Epstein’s victims — who number more than 30 — were entitled to discuss plea negotiations with prosecutors and also appear at the sentencing.
Instead, the federal case was quietly dropped and sealed, and Epstein quietly pleaded guilty to state court charges in 2008. He served only 13 months behind bars, court documents reveal, paid financial settlements to his victims and is a registered sex offender.
“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote in his Thursday decision. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’
“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him,’’ wrote Marra. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’
Epstein, now 66, was released in 2009, and in the decade since has faced various civil lawsuits from his accusers, who are continuing their fight for justice.
Falling short of invalidating the non-prosecution agreement, Marra’s Thursday ruling instead advised prosecutors and lawyers for Epstein’s victims to meet and recommend in 15 days how to move forward.
Asked for a response from Acosta, the New York Post was told that the actions of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida had been defended for more than a decade, across several administrations. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures,” a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Labor said. “This matter remains in litigation.”
Bradley Edwards, attorney for two victims who brought the lawsuit, said the decision should mean the non-prosecution agreement is thrown out — possibly exposing Epstein to federal charges once again. The agreement also granted immunity to anyone who assisted Epstein in finding the underage girls or concealing the abuse.
“Rather than work to correct the injustices done to the victims, the government spent 10 years defending its own improper conduct,” Edwards said in an email to TIME. “It is time for the government to work with the victims, and not against them, to hold everyone who committed these crimes accountable.”