Probe urged in plea deal for sex abuser

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Julie K. Brown, Alex Daugh­erty and Caitlin Ostroff

MI­AMI — More than two dozen law­mak­ers are de­mand­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble mis­con­duct by U.S. Sec­re­tary of La­bor Alexan­der Acosta, who, as a for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor in Mi­ami, helped bro­ker a se­cret plea deal for a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire ac­cused of run­ning an un­der­age sex traf­fick­ing net­work.

The law­mak­ers, mostly Democrats, have sent sev­eral let­ters to Michael E. Horowitz, in­spec­tor gen­eral for the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, call­ing for a probe into Acosta’s role in the 2008 plea deal for Jef­frey Ep­stein.

Ep­stein, 65, a Palm Beach hedge fund man­ager, faced a pos­si­ble life sen­tence for mo­lest­ing dozens of girls, but was in­stead granted fed­eral im­mu­nity as part of a non-prose­cu­tion agree­ment ap­proved by Acosta when he was U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of Flor­ida.

Thus far, 34 sen­a­tors and mem­bers of the House have called for a probe of the Ep­stein case, in­clud­ing two Repub­li­cans, Sen. Marco Ru­bio and Sen. Ben Sasse, chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s sub­com­mit­tee for over­sight.

The re­quests come one week af­ter the Mi­ami Her­ald pub­lished an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Perver­sion of Jus­tice, that re­vealed how fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors worked with Ep­stein’s high-pro­file lawyers to craft a deal that would keep him out of pri­son. In­stead he would serve a brief jail stint.

Acosta agreed, de­spite a fed­eral law to the con­trary, that the deal would be kept from Ep­stein’s un­der­age vic­tims un­til af­ter Ep­stein was sen­tenced, thereby mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for them to ap­pear in court and pos­si­bly de­rail the agree­ment.

The Her­ald iden­ti­fied nearly 80 pos­si­ble vic­tims, most of them 13 to 16 years old. Sev­eral of them, now in their late 20s and early 30s, told the Her­ald that they felt be­trayed by Acosta and other pros­e­cu­tors who failed to treat them as vic­tims and la­beled them as pros­ti­tutes — even though they were un­der the age of con­sent.

Acosta, 49, was con­firmed as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s la­bor sec­re­tary in April 2017. Dur­ing his hear­ings, Sens. Tim Kaine and Patty Mur­ray ques­tioned Acosta about Ep­stein’s deal but Acosta never ex­plained why he agreed to have it sealed.

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