Speed Reads

Wrist slap

A 2008 plea deal by a billionaire sex offender is coming back to haunt Trump's labor secretary pick — and Trump

In 2008, Alexander Acosta, then the top federal prosecutor in Miami, cut a deal with billionaire investor Jeffrey Epstein in which Epstein pleaded guilty to a Florida charge of soliciting underage girls, earning a 13-month jail sentence, in return for immunity from federal prosecution for any offenses committed between 2001 and 2007. If Acosta had prosecuted him on federal charges tied to his alleged sexual abuse of more than 40 girls, mostly aged 13 to 17, he faced up to life in prison. Acosta, who is President Trump's second nominee for labor secretary, is now facing scrutiny in a civil case in Florida over Epstein's light sentence, and Trump is on the witness list.

Trump is just one of the famous people who palled around with Epstein before his fall from grace, partying at his Palm Beach mansion and flying off on his private jet to his private Caribbean estate. Former President Bill Clinton, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Jackson, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were among his other guests. (None, including Trump, has been accused of participating in Epstein's sexual misdeeds.) But Trump is on the witness list because, lawyers for Epstein's victims say, he might have useful information, as Epstein was apparently banned from Mar-a-Lago "because Epstein sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club." Lawyers involved with several Epstein cases tell The Washington Post there's almost no chance that Trump will actually be required to testify.

Acosta's deal with Epstein stipulated that "this agreement will not be made part of any public record," though it was unsealed in 2015 as part of a civil lawsuit. In the current suit, lawyers for the women argue they had a right to know about the deal under the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act, charging that Acosta hid the agreement to avoid "the intense public criticism that would have resulted from allowing a politically connected billionaire" to get off easy.

In a 2011 open letter to the media, Acosta noted that "Epstein, a billionaire, served time in jail and is now a registered sex offender," and said he had declined to press charges after a "a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors" by "an army of legal superstars" representing Epstein, including Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, and several prominent defense attorneys. Dershowitz told The Washington Post that Acosta had tried his best to indict, but "we outlawyered him."