A judge has ruled that prosecutors, including Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, mislead victims and violated the law when they did not inform survivors that a plea deal would send millionaire Jeffery Epstein to jail for just 13 months after a federal probe into allegations that he sexually abused 80 women.
District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that prosecutors broke the law by reaching an agreement with Epstein without informing the victims, who are entitled to updates around significant events in their cases by the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Marra, however, did not rule that the plea deal itself was in violation of the law, according to The Washington Post:
Marra wrote that he was “not ruling that the decision not to prosecute was improper,” noting he was “simply ruling that, under the facts of this case, there was a violation of the victims rights under the CVRA.”
In November 2018, the Miami Herald ran a story that exposed Epstein’s alleged “sex pyramid scheme,” comprised of “a large, cult-like network of underage girls.” More than 80 women say they were “molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006.” Because of the secret 2008 plea deal, which sentenced Epstein to just 18 months in a county jail where he only served 13, none of the women got to testify in court.
Acosta was the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida when the deal was struck. And though the Post reports that a probe has been opened by the Justice Department in regards to the way prosecutors handled the case, since Acosta no longer works for the Justice Department the probe is “likely to be of limited impact.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami declined to comment, though Brad Edwards, an attorney for the victims, said in a statement:
“Today’s order represents long-overdue vindication for all of the victims of Mr. Epstein and his co-conspirators. Unfortunately, this decision also highlights the failure of the United States Government to acknowledge its obvious wrongdoing. Rather than work to correct the injustices done to the victims, the Government spent 10 years defending its own improper conduct. It is time for the Government to work with the victims, and not against them, to hold everyone who committed these crimes accountable.”
According to Politico the judge left open the question of what remedy should be imposed for the prosecutors’ legal violation in their handling of the deal.