Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Alexander Acosta resigns amid Jeffrey Epstein plea criticism

Alexander Acosta resigns amid Jeffrey Epstein plea criticism

Acosta had defended his handling of a decade-old plea deal with financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex crime charges when Acosta was the US attorney in Florida's Southern District.

Standing outside the White House with the departing secretary, President Donald Trump called Acosta a "great labor secretary" who had done a "fantastic job" and said that the decision to step down was Acosta's, not his.

It was never a matter of "if", but "when" Alex Acosta would step down in the days after sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein's arrest.

He suggested that the evidence prosecutors now have - including lewd photographs of underage girls seized in a raid on Epstein's mansion - were not available to his team when he was Miami's USA attorney from 2005 to 2009.

Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty this week to charges alleging he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in NY and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s.

In 2008, then-federal prosecutor Acosta's team cut a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein that ended with the billionaire copping to solicitation charges, having to register as a sex offender, and spending over a year in county jail.

Trump had initially defended Acosta but said he'd look "very closely" his handling of the 2008 agreement. Acosta explained to reporters that prosecutors took this approach because the agreement negotiated with Epstein had "an unusual provision", in that it would require Epstein to pay victims restitution.

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In a filing in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said Epstein wired a total of $350,000 to the two individuals, who were not named. Epstein was put in a work-release program and spent 12 hours a day, six days a week not in prison, but in an office.

President Trump said that Acosta called him Friday morning and said it was entirely Acosta's decision. But when Epstein was arrested over the weekend for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors between 2002 and 2005, Acosta became the secondary news story.

"We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail", said Acosta. "I was told Epstein "belonged to intelligence" and to leave it alone", he told interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta.

Epstein, 66, reached the plea deal in Florida in 2008 to secretly end a federal sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 teenage girls that could have landed him behind bars for life.

"We now have 12 years of knowledge and hindsight and we live in a very different world". Just over a year later, he's had turnover in the departments of Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, Defense, Labor, and a number of lower agencies. "In so many ways I hate what he's saying now cause we're gonna miss him".

Trump has since tried to distance himself from Epstein. Even so, an earlier case arguably should have brought the new charges to light.

The move came as a surprise, as the word around the White House campfire was that Acosta's job was safe.

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