Epstein Scandal Fells a Trump Cabinet Member I

The Story:

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta resigned that cabinet post Friday, July 12, less than a week after the arrest of financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges. Acosta has received a lot of criticism for a plea deal he reached with Epstein to settle similar charges eleven years ago, when Acosta was the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

A “Thing to Know” column tomorrow will look at the likely political impact of the scandal and this resignation. This column focuses on the Epstein/Acosta deal itself.

The Deal:

In the 2008 case, Acosta’s office drafted a detailed 53 page indictment based on the testimony of dozens of victims concerning a large cult-like network, in which Epstein presided over young female recruiters and the underage girls they chose as his victims, and the victims of his friends.

The settlement required Epstein to plead guilty to only two counts in connection with prostitution. In return, Acosta effectively shut down an FBI inquiry that, if aggressively pursued, could have resulted in Epstein spending the rest of his life in prison.

Instead, under Acosta’s deal, Epstein spent just 13 months in a county lock-up, leaving each day (except Sunday) for 12 hours of work.

The Thing to Know:

Intrepid reporting by Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald kept the case alive over the intervening years. The New York US Attorney’s office (which is not bound by the Miami agreement) has credited Brown’s reporting as the inspiration of its own investigation and Epstein’s arrest.

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