La­bor nom­i­nee cut deal with bil­lion­aire in sex abuse case

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Marc Fisher

There was once a time — be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, be­fore the sex­ual abuse con­vic­tion — when rich and fa­mous men loved to hang around with Jeffrey Ep­stein, a bil­lion­aire money man­ager who loved to party.

They vis­ited his man­sion in Palm Beach, Fla. They flew on his jet to join him at his pri­vate es­tate on the Caribbean is­land of Lit­tle Saint James. They even joked about his taste in younger women.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump called Ep­stein a “ter­rific guy” back in 2002, say­ing that “he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beau­ti­ful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Now, Trump is on the wit­ness list in a Florida court bat­tle over how fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors han­dled al­le­ga­tions that Ep­stein, 64, sex­u­ally abused more than 40 mi­nor girls, most of them be­tween the ages of 13 and 17. The law­suit ques­tions why Trump’s nom­i­nee for la­bor sec­re­tary, for­mer Mi­ami U.S. at­tor­ney Alexan­der Acosta, whose con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing is sched­uled to be­gin Wed­nes­day, cut a non-pros­e­cu­tion deal with Ep­stein a decade ago rather than pur­su­ing a fed­eral in­dict­ment that Acosta’s staff had ad­vo­cated.

Al­though Ep­stein’s friends and vis­i­tors once in­cluded past and fu­ture pres­i­dents, rock stars, and some of the coun­try’s rich­est men, he is no longer a so­cial mag­net. Ep­stein pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge of felony so­lic­i­ta­tion of un­der­age girls in 2008 and served a 13month jail sen­tence. Politi­cians who had ac­cepted his do­na­tions, in­clud­ing for­mer New Mex­ico gover­nor Bill Richard­son and for­mer New York gover­nor Eliot Spitzer, have scur­ried to give them back. (Har­vard Univer­sity kept a $6.5 mil­lion gift, say­ing it was “fund­ing im­por­tant re­search” in math­e­mat­ics.)

But Ep­stein’s un­usu­ally light pun­ish­ment — he was fac­ing up to a life sen­tence had he been con­victed on fed­eral charges — has raised ques­tions about how Acosta han­dled the case.

For­mer Palm Beach po­lice chief Michael Reiter, whose depart­ment con­ducted the ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ep­stein’s be­hav­ior, said in a law­suit de­po­si­tion that Ep­stein got off easy.

“That wasn’t an ap­pro­pri­ate res­o­lu­tion of this mat­ter,” Reiter said, ar­gu­ing that the charges lev­eled against Ep­stein were “very mi­nor,” com­pared with what the facts called for. In a let­ter to par­ents of Ep­stein’s vic­tims, Reiter said jus­tice had not been served.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors de­tailed their find­ings in an 82-page pros­e­cu­tion memo and a 53-page in­dict­ment, but Ep­stein was never in­dicted. In 2007, Acosta signed a non-pros­e­cu­tion deal in which he agreed not to pur­sue fed­eral charges against Ep­stein. In ex­change, Ep­stein agreed to plead guilty to a so­lic­i­ta­tion charge in state court, ac­cept a 13-month sen­tence, regis­ter as a sex of­fender and pay resti­tu­tion to the vic­tims.

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