Florida millionaire Jeffrey Epstein once faced life in prison on charges of trafficking dozens of underage girls for sex. He was indicted in a 53-page federal document, accused of building a "cult-like network" of girls coerced into sexual acts at Epstein's homes and at his "sex parties," the Miami Herald reports.
But in 2007, Epstein took a "secret" plea deal that blocked those accusations from the public eye and subjected him to just 13 months in prison, the Herald writes. Alex Acosta, then a federal prosecutor and now President Trump's Labor Secretary, was instrumental in making Epstein's deal happen, dozens of interviews and hundreds of court and FBI documents show.
Epstein's case was "not a 'he said, she said' situation," retired Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter tells the Herald. "This was 50-something 'shes' and one 'he' — and the 'shes' all basically told the same story," he continued. Still, Epstein's alleged victims — about 80 women now in their 20s and 30s — "have all but been forgotten," the Herald writes.
That's because Epstein avoided any public scrutiny for his charges, agreeing to a plea deal that broke federal law by guaranteeing it wouldn't be revealed to Epstein's alleged victims or the public. And as a federal prosecutor in Epstein's case, Acosta "basically allow[ed]" Epstein's lawyers "to write up the agreement," a former state prosecutor representing Epstein's victims in a new suit told the Herald. The agreement also ended an FBI probe into Epstein's alleged trafficking ring, but two new suits brought by victims might uncover more details in the coming months.
Acosta now heads the federal department that oversees human trafficking laws, the Herald notes. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Read more of this massive investigation at the Miami Herald.