As Acosta later wrote, Epstein’s lawyers investigated federal prosecutors and their families “looking for personal peccadilloes,” which they tried to use to disqualify at least two prosecutors.
The prospect of putting teenage victims on the stand to testify before well-paid sharks waiting to shred their credibility — that made it easy to see that Epstein might be found not guilty.
Acosta worked on a nonprosecution agreement that required Epstein to plead guilty to felony solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution in state court. The deal required that Epstein register as a sex offender, pay restitution to his victims and agree to a minimum of two years behind bars — later reduced to 18 months.
It was not the harsh sentence Epstein deserved, but it beat acquittal. At least, as Acosta later argued, the arrangement “put the world on notice” that Epstein, a friend of sorts to men such as Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton and real estate developer Donald Trump, “was and is a sexual predator.”
After pleading guilty in 2008, Epstein gamed local law enforcement. He applied for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s work-release program. For no good reason, his application was approved — Epstein spent 12 hours a day six days a week at his private office.
After his time was served, Epstein returned to his lifestyle of the rich and famous. Yes, he was a registered sex offender. Still, he lived large and largely avoided the interest of the press.
Then, in 2017, Trump, now president, picked Acosta to be his labor secretary. Only then did the Miami Herald produce the 2018 series, “Perversion of Justice.”
Only after the story was hot news in 2019 did New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman indict Epstein for sexual exploitation with minors — between 2002 and 2005.
Acosta, the only prosecutor to put Epstein behind bars, was hounded from his job. For his troubles, Acosta got a bonus: a federal investigation into his handling of the case.
Guess what: The department found no prosecutorial misconduct, although it did say the plea deal constituted “poor judgment.” Considering what followed with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department, who can argue?
“Of course, had Secretary Acosta known then what he knows now, he certainly would have directed a different path,” Acosta reacted in a statement.
It is an outrage that Epstein was able to prey on teens for a decade after his guilty plea. But there’s something wrong with targeting the only prosecutor to put Epstein away, especially when so many in power looked the other way for a decade.