Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told members of President Trump’s transition team that he was told “to back off” of alleged pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 because Epstein “belonged to intelligence,” Daily Beast reporter Vicky Ward reported Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors in New York on Saturday brought a new sex-crimes case against Epstein that could result in a 45 year prison sentence for the alleged serial pedophile.
Acosta, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, has come under heavy scrutiny for brokering an appallingly lenient plea deal in 2008 when Epstein was convicted on child prostitution charges.
After pleading guilty to two counts of solicitation of prostitution (one with a minor under age 18), Epstein was given immunity from federal prosecution and served only 13 months in a private wing Palm Beach County jail, according to the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown:
Unlike other convicted sex offenders, Epstein didn’t face the kind of rough justice that child sex offenders do in Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office allowed Epstein work release privileges, which enabled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a comfortable office that Epstein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff’s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify for work release.
According to the Daily Beast, Trump transition interviewers wanted to know if Acosta’s handling of the Epstein case going to “cause a problem” for him at his confirmation hearings for labor secretary.
Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade.
“I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta.
During his press conference Wednesday afternoon, Acosta was asked if he “at any point” was made aware that Epstein was an “intelligence asset” during his handling of the case in 2007-2008.
Acosta did not deny the report, but added that a lot of reporters were “going down rabbit holes.”
Question: “Were you ever made aware at any point in your handling of this case that Mr. Epstein was an intelligence asset…?”
Alexander Acosta: “… I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines but I can tell you that a lot of reporting is just going down rabbit holes” pic.twitter.com/fgTS6RdokY
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 10, 2019
Acosta defended the infamous plea agreement during the news conference, saying it was his office that intervened when state prosecutors failed to handle the Epstein case appropriately.
“Facts are important, and facts are being overlooked,” he told reporters.
“Simply put, the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office was willing to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing,” Acosta said. “Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable and they became involved.”
Acosta said Wednesday that his office had handled the case appropriately. He said the Epstein case was complicated by the fact that it had originated with state rather than federal authorities and that many of the young victims were scared by the prospect of testifying. He said that telling the victims the deal involved a mechanism for restitution could have jeopardized their case, by allowing Epstein’s attorneys to paint the victims as motivated by money.
Such a deal might not look very good in retrospect, Acosta said, explaining that it was the prosecutors’ calculation that it was better to secure a guilty plea and register Epstein as a sex offender than risk going to trial and potentially see Epstein go free. “There is a value to a sure guilty plea, because letting him walk — letting what the state attorney was ready to do go forward — would have been absolutely awful,” he said.
Vicky Ward, who reported on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2002, claims that editor-in-chief Graydon Carter had the most incriminating portions of her story — regarding Epstein’s alleged sexual assaults of underage girls — cut before publication.
As the article was being readied for publication, Epstein made a visit to the office of Vanity Fair’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, and suddenly the women and their allegations were removed from the article. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter told me at the time.
He has previously denied Ward’s allegation about whitewashing her story.