The Alexander Acosta-Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

That’s Epstein…a popular guy.

You have to buckle your seat belt and read this story.

The Miami-Herald undoubtedly earned itself a Pulitzer Prize with its detailed and horrifying account of rigged justice involving jet set multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who parlayed money, connections, friends in high places and quite possibly extortion into a lighter-than-light sentence despite overwhelming evidence that over many years he had used his resources to gather “a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day…The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.”

The prosecutor who allowed Epstein to virtually escape accountability for crimes that make such recent cultural villains as Harvey Weinstein appear to be benign in comparison was the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida.

Nobody’s talking, except the alleged victims, who are now mounting a legal challenge to the fiasco. Epstien’s lawyers, the kind of high-powered, high-priced super-team that only the richest of the rich can summon, included Allan Dershowitz, Roy Black and Ken Starr, among others, can’t discuss their representation under the rules of client confidentiality. So far, Acosta has been silent as well. The evidence that the paper’s investigation has uncovered—and again, don’t rely on this brief post, read the whole story—is persuasive, damning, and for me, someone who works in and with the legal profession, spiritually devastating. This, from the Maimi-Herald’s introduction and conclusion, provides some sense of the magnitude of the scandal:

Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life. But on the morning of the [2007] breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.

Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.

The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.

As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it…

But court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.

“The damage that happened in this case is unconscionable,” said Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents some of Epstein’s victims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?”

As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.

This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.

“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,’’ said one of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”

Now President Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta, 49, oversees a massive federal agency that provides oversight of the country’s labor laws, including human trafficking. He also has been on a list of possible replacements for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure earlier this month…

…Florida state Sen. Lauren Book, a child sex abuse survivor who has lobbied for tough sex offender laws, said Epstein’s case should serve as a tipping point for criminal cases involving sex crimes against children.

“Where is the righteous indignation for these women? Where are the protectors? Who is banging down the doors of the secretary of labor, or the judge or the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach County, demanding justice and demanding the right to be heard?’’ Book asked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Villafaña, in court papers, said that prosecutors used their “best efforts’’ to comply with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, but exercised their “prosecutorial discretion’’ when they chose not to notify the victims. …Acosta has never fully explained why he felt it was in the best interests of the underage girls — and their parents — for him to keep the agreement sealed. Or why the FBI investigation was closed even as, recently released documents show, the case was yielding more victims and evidence of a possible sex-trafficking conspiracy beyond Palm Beach.

Upon his nomination by Trump as labor secretary in 2017, Acosta was questioned about the Epstein case during a Senate confirmation hearing.

“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,’’ Acosta said of his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally…

…Over the past year, the Miami Herald examined a decade’s worth of court documents, lawsuits, witness depositions and newly released FBI documents. Key people involved in the investigation — most of whom have never spoken before — were also interviewed. The Herald also obtained new records, including the full unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation and witness statements that had been kept under seal.

The Herald learned that, as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called “valuable consideration” for unspecified information he supplied to federal investigators. While the documents obtained by the Herald don’t detail what the information was, Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.

Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in 2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.

The Herald also identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were located — now scattered around the country and abroad. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed, on or off the record. Four of them were willing to speak on video….

…Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is one of the nation’s leading advocates for reforming laws involving sex crimes against children, said what Acosta and other prosecutors did is similar to what the Catholic Church did to protect pedophile priests.

“The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded the priests,’’ Hamilton said. “The orchestration of power by men only is protected as long as everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to hear.’’

But will it? I read this story when it was published two days ago. I assumed that it would be the news story of the week and beyond. After all, it not only involved a sexual predator, but a member of the Trump Cabinet at a time when the entire focus of the mainstream news media is to embarrass and attack President Trump and his administration. This time, nobody, including me, could claim bias if the emerging scandal dominated the front pages, cable news and the web for days or more. Yet there has been very little about it publicized. Why?

We can only speculate. However, it is striking that the celebrity and powerful figures most connected to Epstein were Clinton and Prince Andrew. Epstein’s sexual exploits often occurred on his private jet, nicknamed “The Lolita Express” for its underage, sexually available cargo, and flight logs show that Bill was a happy passenger more than 20 times. Of course, that doesn’t mean that his passenger status had anything to do with the girls, or that the girls were even on board when he was. Of course.

I also find it interesting that Bill managed never to have his photograph taken with Epstein. Young Donald—you know, when he looked like Elvis—was not so careful.

I’m not certain what to do with this story right now, as I don’t have enough facts to definitively determine that prosecutorial misconduct occurred, or whether, somehow, there was a legitimate reason for Epstein to serve just 13 months in a minimum security facillity despite considerable evidence that he was a sex trafficker and serial rapist. Sure, he had to register as a sex offender, but the man is a billionaire, currently living large in the Virgin Islands. Its sure looks like a case of laws only being for the little people. The American people, and not just Epstein’s victims, need to know what really happened, and who was responsible.

I’ve been encountering a lot of very disturbing examples of corruption in the legal profession lately, not merely in the news but in my own work. The Acosta-Epstein story profoundly depresses me. The man is a monster. Our system should not allow monsters to roam free just because they are rich, know the right people, or, in Epstein’s case, perhaps, have useful dirt on other miscreants. The public cannot trust such a system.

Other observations:

  • I have read a lot of criticism of Epstein’s lawyers. So far, I see nothing unethical in their conduct or performance. True, as the article’s quotes state, defense counsel aren’t supposed to run the prosecution. But if the prosecution allows them to do it, they are ethically obligated to grab the opportunity, and any good lawyer would. Absent bribes or other illegal incentives, Epstein’s lawyers did what they were paid to do and ethically obligated to do: obtain the best results for their client.

Justice is not their job.

  • I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured.

He should resign.

26 Comments

Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

26 responses to “The Alexander Acosta-Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

  1. Other Bill

    The Clintons’ power over the media never ceases to amaze.

  2. Arthur in Maine

    I saw this story the other day and have been equally puzzled as to the why the likes of the NY Times, CNN and MSNBC haven’t glommed onto it.

    As a practical matter, they all seem to be so breathless about the latest Cohen and Manafort stuff that they could be holding it in reserve.

    But I suspect not. Dollars to donuts this is one box of potential anti-Trump goodness they don’t want to open for fear of their favorites tumbling out as well.

    And completely agree: if this story doesn’t at minimum take Acosta off of Trumps list of potential AG candidates there’s no excuse. Even better if he rides off into the sunset. But given that the story appears to be at least temporarily spiked by the usual suspects, it could be that Acosta and the admin are watching this story in hopes that it continues to slip on the ice, with the idea that Acosta might need to step back “because it’s too much of a distraction” down the road.

  3. Michael R.

    So, the fact that Clinton took Epstien’s private jet to his private ‘sex slave island’ isn’t suspicious at all. It has been reported that Clinton excused his Secret Service detail when he went on the jet and the paperwork required for that circumstance was not filed in any of the cases. Not suspicious at all… Of course, when Bill and Hillary Clinton personally intervened in the case of a man smuggling underage children to Haiti to work as sex slaves, that wasn’t suspicious either. It is stuff like this that make Qanon so addictive to people.

    • Right, but not as damning as allegedly jumping on a girl at a party when he was a teenager in an episode that nobody witnessed or remembers except the jumpee.

      • dragin_dragon

        Good point, Jack. Nah. There’s no bias in the media.

      • Michael R.

        Well of course, that is obvious. We have become so enlightened in the realm of sexual assault that rape no longer requires a rapist! That is actually the worst type of rape. When someone is raped, but there is no rapist to prosecute, there is no closure, no justice, and the victim must suffer all alone with her fabricated memories.

  4. Rusty Rebar

    But Pizzagate is a fake conspiracy theory? This strains credulity.

    • Matthew B.

      That’s my immediate question. I always assumed pizzagate was a fringe nut conspiracy thory and nothing more. Now it comes out that a Clinton friend was trafficking on children for sex?

  5. Alex

    Thirteen months in county jail? If it is known what he did he won’t last 13 hours. Not the right thing, but I really can’t see how he’ll serve the full sentence.

  6. dans

    I completely agree that Acosta should resign. The coverage I have seen on tv seemed interested in the story only because of the link to the Trump administration, as you suggested, and didn’t go into the Clinton connection. I would need to look into it more but I seem to remember that previous reporting on the Clinton-Epstein link was usually dismissed as conspiracy theory.

  7. Jack wrote, “Epstein’s sexual exploits often occurred on his private jet, nicknamed “The Lolita Express” for its underage, sexually available cargo, and flight logs show that Bill was a happy passenger more than 20 times.”

    Why do you think that Epstein hobnobbed with powerful people like Clinton? I’ll tell you why, it was so when law enforcement caught up with him those trying to take him down could receive the appropriate phone calls from representatives of some really powerful people that can make others disappear.

    I can hear the private conversations of the prosecutors in my head…

    Prosecutor 1: “I have already received no less than a dozen calls from highly-ranked and powerfully-placed individuals telling me to let” Epstein go. “The joy of checks and balances in our government is that I can, and am, indeed, required by law, to tell them to fuck off”; but gentleman this situation is different. (Yes I robbed some of that from an Attorney General Russert quote from the movie The Shooter)

    Prosecutor 2: I’ve received the same calls and the implications aren’t pleasant. I even got a couple of those calls at home. I think it’s time we all take an extended Caribbean vacation.

    Prosecutor 3: I’ve received the same kind of calls at home, my wife saw my terrified face on the phone call and she’s scared too. What’s the procedure for changing our identity?

    etc, etc…

    Prosecutor 1: Now we just have to figure out how reasonably accomplish making this all go away, letting Epstein essentially go “free”, save face for us, make the victims think they got some kind of justice, and protecting those powerful people. (thinking, thinking….)

    Prosecutor 3: I’ve got it, let’s ask the defense how to proceed and get an amicable deal, that way we can blame the defense later if need be.

    Prosecutor 2: Damn good idea, then we can wash our hands of this.

    Prosecutor 1: In my best Yul Brynner voice, “So let it be written, so let it be done”. If anyone speaks of this conversation remember Vincent Foster.

    The results of the corrupt Clinton machine is evident again.

  8. Glenn Logan

    I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured.

    He should resign.

    Yes. I agree. I just cannot see how a prosecutor could consider this justice.

    Like you, I think Epstein’s legal team does not appear to be a concern. Their job is to zealously represent their client, and it looks to me that they did just that.

  9. You mean Epstein and Clinton weren’t just trying to enhance employment opportunities for underage female immigrant minorities?

  10. Alexander Cheezem

    As something of a side-note to this conversation, I attempted to share this on Facebook. FB removed my post (which was a link without comment), claiming that it violated their community standards for reasons unspecified. It later did the same with another Ethics Alarms share (the Vagina Epilogues post). I’ve protested both decisions and commented on the matter… but, well, I felt that you should be aware.

    If nothing else, it’s an ethics issue… about Ethics Alarms.

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