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Wed Nov 28, 2018, 09:58 PM

Trump Labor Secretary Conspired to Offer Extraordinary Plea Deal to Millionaire in Sex-Abuse Case

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who has been criticized for his role in a plea deal 10 years ago with a multimillionaire alleged to have abused dozens of underage girls, allowed the billionaire’s lawyers to largely set the terms of their client’s prosecution, a yearlong investigation by the Miami Herald found.

On Wednesday, the Herald released its multi-part report into the sex crimes of hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein in the early 2000s and the shockingly lenient punishment he received. The crimes described in the report are deeply upsetting: The Herald identified 80 victims, many of whom were preyed on because they were poor and in unstable homes, or on the verge of homelessness. They spoke of being paid to give massages and ultimately were coerced into sex acts, or of being tasked with finding other girls for him. Some described repeated and regular abuse by Epstein (one described going to his home “hundreds” of times), and one victim said Epstein raped her. A lawsuit pending in New York also alleges Epstein used an international modeling agency to traffic girls from Europe, Ecuador, and Brazil to house and use for his own sexual gratification.

Despite the vast scale of the abuse, Epstein pleaded guilty in June 2008 to just two prostitution-related charges in state court and was jailed for just 13 months in the Palm Beach, Florida, county jail. (Critics have pointed out that girls below the age of consent cannot be considered prostitutes but victims of trafficking.) Epstein was housed in a private wing of the jail and was allowed to leave six days a week for 12 hours at a time to work out of one of his comfortable offices. (Per sheriff’s department rules, sex offenders do not qualify for work release, the Herald noted.) He did register as a sex offender and was ordered to pay restitution to the three dozen victims who had been identified by the FBI at that point, but the victims’ payments came “only after Epstein’s attorneys exposed every dark corner of their lives in a scorched-earth effort to portray the girls as gold diggers,” the Herald reported.

To make matters worse, the plea deal he accepted effectively shuttered an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were other victims or guilty parties—it’s possible other powerful and wealthy people were involved—and the victims themselves were intentionally kept in the dark about the criminal proceedings against Epstein.


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