Hedge fund billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York City on Saturday on charges of child sex trafficking. Epstein, a notorious pedophile, has been able to avoid federal charges for 15 years. Agents also reportedly broke down his door and executed a search warrant of his apartment. He will appear before a federal judge on Monday.
In 2008, Epstein struck a sweetheart deal with Alex Acosta, then the U.S. Attorney in Miami. Under the deal, despite accusations of sexual abuse from dozens of underage victims, Epstein was able to plead guilty to two state charges of soliciting prostitution. He was technically sentenced to 13 months of incarceration but was able to spend most of his time in a nearby luxury office.
Since that time, Epstein has been able to continue his opulent lifestyle. He was arrested Saturday "at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey after his private jet landed there from Paris." He maintains "homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris and in the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Acosta now serves as Trump's Secretary of Labor where he oversees the nation's human trafficking laws.
In February, a federal judge ruled that Acosta broke the law by failing to inform the alleged victims of Epstein's plea agreement, as required by the Crime Victims Rights Act. Acosta admitted that, at the request of Epstein's powerful attorneys, he agreed to keep the plea deal secret. Acosta's actions robbed Epstein's victims of their legal right to speak at the court hearing where Epstein's deal was approved by a judge.
Earlier this year, Trump defended Acosta's conduct. "I really don’t know too much about it. I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago," Trump said.
Epstein's serial child abuse
The previous federal investigation uncovered evidence that Epstein "sexually abused nearly three dozen girls, mostly 13-16 years old, at his Palm Beach mansion from 1999 to 2006, according to investigators." According to investigators, Epstein "used the girls to help recruit other young girls as part of an operation that ran similar to a pyramid scheme." Epstein employed staff to schedule his encounters, sometimes booking "three or four girls a day."
An extensive investigation by the Miami Herald, which brought renewed attention to Epstein's case, identified "nearly 80 girls who were molested by Epstein." In civil cases, witnesses have said "hundreds of girls from around the world were brought to Mr. Epstein at different times."
The new charges reportedly involve allegations that he "routinely brought underage girls to his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and sexual acts."
Acosta's evolving explanation
Acosta personally negotiated the plea deal with one of Epstein's lawyers and agreed to keep the terms secret from Epstein's victims. In a 2011 letter to the media, Acosta suggested he gave Epstein a favorable deal because he was intimidated by Epstein's team of "legal superstars."
What followed was a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors. I use the word assault intentionally, as the defense in this case was more aggressive than any which I, or prosecutors in my office, had previously encountered. Mr. Epstein hired an army of legal superstars: Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, former Judge and then Pepperdine Law Dean Kenneth Starr, former Deputy Assistant to the President and then Kirkland & Ellis Partner Jay Lefkowitz, and several others…
The defense strategy was not limited to legal issues. Defense counsel investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.
But asked about the case in his 2017 nomination hearing to be Secretary of Labor, Acosta said the outcome was "a point of pride."
After the federal court's ruling in February, Acosta said that his actions were "approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures" and declined further comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Trump backs Acosta
In February, 19 members of Congress called on Trump to fire Acosta over his handling of the Epstein case.
This despicable unjust plea deal that was arranged by Acosta showed no respect for the suffering of the victims and credible accounts of human trafficking and was a clear abuse of power for political gain.
We strongly believe that Secretary Acosta was negligent in his duty to represent the best interests of the victims and the U.S. Government. As such, we request that you immediately demand his letter of resignation.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the case was "complicated" but Acosta "made the best possible decision and deal [he] could have gotten at that time."
Acosta's Labor Department weakens protections for human tracking victims
Under Acosta's leadership, the Labor Department recently imposed a "moratorium on processing visa applications for victims of human trafficking and other egregious workplace crimes." For about two months, the department has stopped processing "T visas," which are issued to trafficked workers. They are generally issued to people willing to cooperate with law enforcement. Lawyers representing these workers say they "are desperate for protection."
The moratorium is part of "the administration’s emphasis on curbing the flow of undocumented immigrants."
Epstein's powerful friends
Among Epstein's friends was another billionaire, Donald Trump. In 2002, Trump joked about Epstein's sexual habits. "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side," Trump quipped.
One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Giuffre, says she was brought into Epstein's orbit while working at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where Trump and Epstein have been photographed together.
Asked Sunday about Epstein's arrest, Trump said, "I don't know anything about it."
Julie K. Brown, the Miami Herald reporter who broke open the Epstein story, said she expects "very powerful people" are "sweating a little bit" with Epstein's arrest.
We don't know how much, how deep this went, how far-reaching it went in government, but there have been a lot of names that I could see on these message pads [listing clients] on a regular basis as part of the evidence. These message pads where they would call and leave Epstein messages, such as, 'I'm at this hotel.' Why do you do that, unless you're expecting him to send you a girl to visit you at your hotel? So there are probably quite a few important people, powerful people, who are sweating it out right now. We'll have to wait and see whether Epstein is going to name names.
Brown noted that both Trump and Epstein owned modeling agencies. She said that she suspected Epstein used his modeling agency "to bring in underage girls from overseas." According to Brown, Epstein is quoted in court documents as saying, "I want to set up my modeling agency the same way Trump set up his modeling agency." (Brown cautioned that she does not "know what that means.")
During the 2016 campaign, Trump drew attention to Epstein's friendship with President Bill Clinton. Trump noted that Clinton visited Epstein on his private Carribean island.
Flight logs show that Clinton flew on Epstein's jet at least 26 times between 2001 and 2003. Epstein was a major Democratic donor.
There is no evidence that Clinton or Trump was involved in Epstein's sexual abuse of minors. Epstein's plea deal with Acosta secured immunity not only for himself but also his unnamed co-conspirators. Now, all bets are off.
The document dump
Epstein's arrest comes just three days after a federal appellate court ordered the release of about 2,000 documents from a related civil case. The documents, part of a civil lawsuit brought by one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, are expected to reveal more details about the activities of Epstein and his accomplices.
Giuffre says that Epstein forced her to have sex with powerful men, including attorney Alan Dershowitz and others. Dershowitz denies the allegations and says the documents will prove his innocence. "When the materials are unsealed, the public will see the evidence in my accuser’s own words that prove I was framed to get money, and that I am totally innocent, as I have consistently asserted since the day I was falsely accused," Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz was one of the attorneys who negotiated Epstein's plea agreement in 2008.
The new charges against Epstein were filed by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, another set of prosecutors in Georgia are still defending Epstein's initial plea deal.
In June, U.S. Attorney Byung “B.J.” Pak acknowledged that prosecutors violated the rights of victims in reaching Epstein's initial deal but argued there was nothing to be done. Pak "said that because Congress did not outline specific penalties in the Crime Victims’ Rights Act when it was created by Congress, Epstein’s victims have no right to demand anything from the government — not even an apology."
Epstein's alleged victims argued the plea agreement should be thrown out.
A federal judge will decide what happens to the plea deal. But the new charges are expected to proceed regardless. The Washington Post reports that "prosecutors do not have significant double jeopardy concerns or concerns about Epstein’s previous plea, meaning the charges probably involve new victims or new alleged wrongdoing."
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