A former Palm Beach State Attorney has accused Alex Acosta of brokering a ‘secret deal’ with Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers and then trying to ‘rewrite history’.
Barry Krischer said that his office had been cut out of the controversial 2008 deal that saw Epstein given a light sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to state charges.
It came after the Labor Secretary yesterday heaped blame on state authorities and said their failings had left with little option but to offer Epstein the deal.
But Mr Krischer hit back and said Acosta’s ‘recollection of the matter is completely wrong.’
He revealed that the state attorney’s office took no part in the ‘Non-Prosecution Agreement and the unusual confidentiality agreement that kept everything hidden from the victims.’
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta pushed back against calls for his resignation on Wednesday and defended a secret plea agreement his then-Florida office cut a decade ago with financier Jeffrey Epstein, who got a slap onthe wrist for seuxally abusing teen girls and is now under arrest in New York for the same offense
Jeffrey Epstein’s Florida deal included 18 months of incarceration but he was allowed to come and go during the day on work-release, a perk Acosta called ‘B.S.’
Krischer wrote: ‘If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the State’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted.
‘Instead, Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a Non-Prosecution Agreement in violation of the Crime Victim’s Rights act.’
With his job as a Trump cabinet member on the line after federal prosecutors in New York indicted Epstein on charges of sex trafficking young girls, Acosta yesterday took question after question from reporters in order to explain the decision-making process that gave Epstein what critics call a ‘sweetheart deal.’
Acosta claimed he was compelled to intervene because state prosecutors were prepared to proceed on a lesser charge of soliciting prostitution and Epstein would have been spared jail time.
In addition Florida officials had granted the sex offender work release during his imprisonment, which Acosta claimed could only have been permitted by the state which made the non-prosecution agreement with Epstein.
Acosta said it was crucial at the time he negotiated the deal to ‘put the world on notice that he was and is a sexual predator’ and that Epstein go to jail, which he did.
Under the terms of that deal, Epstein had to register as a sex offender – though he served just 13 months and was able to get out of county jail six days a week on work release to his own office.
Acosta defended the team of career prosecutors who worked on the case while he was the top federal prosecutor in Miami overseeing the deal in 2008. He placed blame on authorities in Palm Beach as well as Florida officials who oversaw Epstein’s sentence, while releasing a letter that pointed the finger at Epstein’s all-star legal team.
‘Facts are important and facts are being overlooked,’ Acosta said, fielding questions for 53 minutes at a press conference he said he decided was requited to set the record straight.
He refused to explicitly apologize to victims, though the repeatedly expressed sympathy for what they had gone through years ago, and urged any additional Epstein victims to come forward.
He cast 2008 as a time when witnesses would be subjected to ‘victim shaming’ at trial.
‘Times have changed and coverage of this case has certainly changed since that article,’ he said, after reading a report of a story about Epstein’s original guilty plea.
Asked if he would reach the same agreement today, Acosta said: ‘These questions are always very difficult. Because we now have 12 years of knowledge and hindsight and we live in a very different world.
‘Today’s world treats victims very, very differently. Today’s world does not allow some of the victim shaming that could have taken place at trial 12 years ago.
‘Today’s world understands that when interviewing victims, when eliciting testimony, that testimony can be sometimes contradictory, that memories are difficult.
‘And so I don’t think we can say, you know, take a case that is this old and fully know how it would play out today.’
‘I’m here to say we did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. He needed to go to jail. He needed to go to jail. And that was the focus.’
‘In our heart we were trying to do the right thing for these victims,’ Acosta said of prosecutors.
‘Without the work of our prosecutors, Epstein would have gotten away with just that state charge. He was and is a sexual predator,’ he said.
Acosta said he was glad New York prosecutors were going after Epstein – although those prosecutors cited media reports that catalogued the injustices of Epstein’s case as being informative to their work.
‘He’s a bad man and he needs to be put away,’ Acosta said.
And he defended his relationship with President Trump. ‘My relationship with the president’s outstanding,’ he said, when asked about it. He reportedly did the press conference at President Trump’s urging.
‘I serve at the pleasure of the president,’ he said. ‘If at some point, he says, ‘look, you’re not the right person for this right now or you’re standing in the way,’ I respect that,’ he added.
He also brought up reporting that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has soured on him continuing to serve. He said Mulvaney called Wednesday morning to tell him reports they don’t have a good relationship were ‘in his words, `B.S.’
But he dodged a question from DailyMail.com about whether he had been aware of alleged obstruction of justice by Epstein including alleged witness tampering – and why he would be able to get the deal he did if he had harassed or tampered with witnesses, as New York prosecutors claim he did.
‘I can’t comment on the New York case, that would not be appropriate’ Acosta responded, and moved on.
But when pressed in a follow-up question whether Epstein obstructed justice in Florida, Acosta addressed his comments to the latest New York prosecution. ‘There is a pending case in New York. I can’t comment,’ he said.
He also disputed a question about whether Epstein’s money and influence – he has been pictured socializing with Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton – had influenced his treatment by prosecutors.
‘No level of appeal to main Justice changed the terms’ of the deal, Acosta.
Acosta was asked why the feds didn’t just keep investigating, with dozens of young girls now having come forward to say they were molested by Epstein.
‘So the victims of which we were aware were part of this, and under the agreement in the southern district of Florida, the investigation ceased and they had the opportunity to proceed civilly. That does not mean that the investigation had to cease nationwide, and as we see today, as we saw in New York, investigations could certainly and obviously have proceeded in other districts,’ he said.
Acosta avoided answering a reporter’s question about whether he consented to a lenient plea deal for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in 2007 because he was instructed that the financier was a spy.
According to The Daily Beast, when President Donald Trump’s transition team vetted Acosta for the top Labor Department post, he was asked about the deal and replied that he had ‘been told’ to go easy.
Acosta, in one source’s telling, said he ‘was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence”and to leave it alone.’
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, he dodged a pointed question about whether that version of events was true.
‘Were you ever made aware at any point in your handling of this case,’ a reporter asked Acosta, ‘that Mr. Epstein was an intelligence asset of some sort?’
Acosta neither confirmed nor denied it.
‘There has been reporting to that effect,’ he said. ‘And let me say, there’s been reporting to a lot of effects in this case, not just now but over the years. And again I would hesitant to take this reporting as fact.’
‘This was a case that was brought by our office,’ he said of his then-position as Florida’s top federal prosecutor. ‘It was brought based on the facts.’
‘And I look at the reporting and others, I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines, but I can tell you that a lot of reporting is going down rabbit holes.’
In addition to fielding questions for nearly an hour about his conduct, Acosta put out documents to bolster the decisions pertaining to the non-prosecution agreement.
One was a declaration from A. Marie Villafana, an assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the Epstein case. She describes victim notification letters she prepared. She described communications with the lawyer for ‘Jane Doe 2,’ who told her his client wanted immunity and intended to take the Fifth Amendment.
She said she ‘raised concerns’ about whether the lawyer, James Eisenberg, had a conflict of interest, because his ‘fees were paid by Jeffrey Epstein, the target of the investigation.’
Another document, a 2007 letter delivered by Fax to Kenneth Starr, one of Epstein’s powerhouse lawyers, hints at just some of the massive legal fight Epstein brought to bear.
According to Acosta, Starr complained about elements of the non-prosecution deal that his own legal team had raised. ‘I would invite you to confer with your co-counsel regarding this matter,’ he writes at one point.
‘You raise concerns regarding the selection process for the attorney representative,’ he writes. ‘As you may be aware, the suggestion that we appoint an attorney representative originated with defense counsel,’ he tells the former Bill Clinton independent counsel.
Acosta notes that another lawyer had indicated ‘his desire to appeal … to the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or the Assistant Attorney General for the criminal division.’ But instead, Epstein’s legal team decided to negotiate over the terms of the deal.
Acosta included a letter he wrote to Kenneth Starr, one of Epstein’s eight high-powered lawyers at the time
Then he names the array of high-priced lawyers: Starr, ‘Professor Alan Dershowitz, Former United States Attorney Guy Lewis, Ms. Lilly Ann Sanchez and Messrs. Roy Black, Jack Goldberger, Gerry Lefcourt and Jay Lefkowitz.’
Acosta also mentions an ’11th hour’ appeal ‘to Washington’ that occurred to experts in the Criminal Division.
‘I am thus surprised to read a letter addressed to Department Headquarters that raises issues that either have not been raised with this Office previously or that have been raised, and in fact, resolved, in your client’s favor,’ he wrote.
He also said he was ‘troubled’ by the ‘apparent lack of finality in the agreement.’
‘The [Assistant U.S. Attorneys] who have been negotiating with defense counsel have for some time complained to me regarding the tactics used by the defense team. It appears to them that as soon as resolution is reached on one issue, defense counsel finds ways to challenge the resolution collaterally.’
He also writes in a footnote to Starr that ‘it is not clear from your letter whether you believe that attorneys in this Office have acted improperly’ – something he considers a ‘very serious allegation.’
TIMELINE OF JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S LEGAL TROUBLES
1999-2002 – Virginia Roberts [Jane Doe #3] claims to she served as a ‘sex slave’ for Jeffrey Epstein and was required to engage in sexual activity with him and a number of his high-profile friends.
March 2005 – Authorities in Florida launch a probe into Epstein after a mother calls and alleges that her daughter was molested at his Palm Beach estate.
May 2006 – A probable cause affidavit is filed by the Palm Beach Police Department after the sexual battery investigation into Epstein, Sarah Kellen and Haley Robson Sworn. It charges Epstein with four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior for unlawful sex with a minor. Five victims and seventeen witnesses were interviewed, and alleged that Epstein engaged in unlawful sexual behavior. Sworn meanwhile was accused of profiting by providing young girls to Epstein, while Kellen was tasked with keeping a black book containing the names and contact information of these minors in her capacity as Epstein’s assistant.
May 2006 – Barry Krischer, the State Attorney in Palm Beach, refers the case to a grand jury.
June 2006 – The grand jury returns an indictment of one count of solicitation of prostitution. This charge does not reflect that the individual in question was a minor. Only one girl testifies in front of the grand jury.
July 2006 – The Palm Beach Police Chief grows increasingly annoyed as he watches the lack of progress his investigation is making in the legal system, and convinces the FBI to open a federal investigation. It is dubbed Operation Leap Year and the possible crime being probed is ‘child prostitution.’
November 2006 – Operation Leap Year picks up steam as the FBI begins interviewing potential witnesses and victims from the three states where Epstein owns property: Florida, New York and New Mexico.
June 2007 – The US Attorney’s Office drafts a lengthy indictment as the federal probe of Epstein comes to an end, while at the same time Epstein begins negotiating a possible plea deal.
July 2007 – A new set of grand jury subpoenas are issued, including ones for Epstein’s computers. When police go to execute those subpoenas at Epstein’s Palm Beach home, they discover they have all been removed.
August 2007 – The US Attorney in Miami at the time, Alex Acosta, joins the Epstein negotiation talks.
September 2007 – Epstein signs a non-prosecution agreement on September 24 after rejecting multiple plea deals. His criminal charges are then deferred to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.
October 2007 – Acosta meets with Epstein’s lawyer Jay Lefkowitz to finalize the terms of the plea deal. It is agreed that the victims would not be notified, the deal would be kept under seal and all grand jury subpoenas would be canceled – including the one for Epstein’s computers, which were still at large.
January 2008 – After months of demands, Epstein and his lawyers say they will not longer accept the plea deal because he forces him to register as a sex offender.
February 2008 – A civil lawsuit is filed against Epstein by an anonymous woman, stating that as a 16-year-old minor she was recruited to give Epstein a paid massage. She demands $50 million, claiming that she was then force to perform sex acts on Epstein.
March 2008 – A federal grand jury presentation is planned following the FBI probe. Lawyers for Epstein begin harassing victims with phone calls and one of his investigators is accused of trying to run a victim’s father off the road.
March 2008 – A second woman files a civil action against Epstein.
May 2008 – It is announced that with no plea deal in case, the federal case against Epstein can proceed.
June 2008 – On June 30, Epstein pleads guilty to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution with a minor under the age of 18. Both are state charges and he is sentenced to 18 months in jail. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
July 2008 – Epstein’s victims learn of the plea deal, but it will be another 10 years before they are informed of all the details, including the fact that victim was 16 in the charge to which Epstein entered a guilty plea and not 14 like the women were led to believe. This allowed Epstein to avoid registering as a sex offender in multiple states like New Mexico, where he has a ranch. An emergency petition is filed udner the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which mandates that victims be informed about plea agreements and the right to appear at sentencing. It is ignored.
August 2008 – Epstein’s agreement cannot be unsealed for the victims to see it is ruled in court, with federal prosecutors fighting to keep the records hidden from the public.
October 2008 – Epstein begins work release from the county stockad, where six days a week an he is transported to an office where he is able to work and entertain visitors. He returns to the stockade in the evening.
December 2008 – A judge grants Epstein’s request to travel to New York for a day and then an extended stay. He says it is for a court case, but after an initial filing there is no follow-up in the case.
July 22, 2009 – Epstein is released from prison.