House Democrats want Jeffrey Epstein sex case reopened
BY JULIE K. BROWN
Fourteen Democratic members of Congress have asked the U.S. attorney general to reopen the criminal investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old Palm Beach hedge fund manager accused of sexually trafficking underage girls.
The group, led by Florida Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel, and Jackie Speier of California, asked President Donald Trump’s new attorney general, William Barr, to reopen the controversial non-prosecution agreement under which Epstein and a group of unidentified co-conspirators received federal immunity for sex trafficking crimes.
The deal, negotiated by then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta — who is now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary — allowed Epstein to plead guilty in state court to two felony prostitution charges. He served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail, but had his private driver pick him up at the jail six days a week to go to his downtown office in West Palm Beach as part of an unusual work-release arrangement.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the 2008 deal, which was sealed, was illegal because it violated Epstein’s victims’ rights.
As pressure has grown on Acosta to resign, Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott, have called for a review of the case. In February, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility began a probe into whether Acosta and other prosecutors committed any misconduct.
“We urge the DOJ to reopen the non-prosecution agreement to allow for a thorough investigation of these heinous crimes,’’ the Democratic lawmakers wrote in the letter to Barr.
They also asked the Justice Department to release its investigation, presumably upon its completion.
The case has drawn fresh scrutiny following the publication of a series of Miami Herald stories, “Perversion of Justice,’’ that analyzed thousands of documents in the case. Those documents, as well as new interviews with his victims and the police, revealed how Acosta and other prosecutors worked in concert with Epstein’s high-powered lawyers to curtail the criminal investigation in order to cut a secret plea bargain.
The victims were not told about the deal until well after Epstein was sentenced. By keeping it secret, prosecutors prevented Epstein’s victims, mostly 13- to 16-year-olds, from appearing at his sentencing and appealing to the judge to throw out the deal. Records also showed that prosecutors misled the sentencing judge into believing there were only a few victims, when in fact, by the time he was sentenced, authorities had identified nearly three dozen victims.
Acosta, once a rising star in the Republican Party, has not commented publicly since his 2017 confirmation hearing for his Cabinet post. At that time, he told lawmakers that, given the weight of the evidence, the best option was to resolve the case with a non-prosecution agreement so that Epstein would at least serve some time behind bars on the state charges and be forced to register as a sex offender.
Epstein’s attorney, Martin Weinberg, has not responded to multiple phone messages and emails left by the Miami Herald. He was released from jail in 2009 and now divides his time between his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach and his private island in the Caribbean.