Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are taking another crack at holding serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein accountable for his reprehensible behavior more than a decade ago. While the new indictment of the well-connected financier in the Southern District of New York is very aggressive, it sends a strong message that the rich and powerful cannot evade justice, and that the sexual exploitation of underage girls will be taken seriously.
“The defendant, a registered sex offender, is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant,” prosecutors wrote in a memo arguing that Epstein should be denied bail on sex-trafficking charges.
It’s a celebrity case with many subplots (Bill Clinton was a passenger on Epstein’s jets), but one of the most fraught is how Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in South Florida, approved a 2008 joke of a plea deal that permitted Epstein to receive immunity from federal prosecution. Acosta is now secretary of labor.
Despite a 53-page federal indictment prepared by Acosta’s office at that time detailing how Epstein paid underage girls $200 to $300 to come to his Palm Beach mansion and perform sex acts and to recruit others, Epstein got a non-prosecution agreement. Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to minor prostitution counts under Florida law that let him serve a 13-month sentence in the Palm Beach County jail and participate in a program that let him work at private office for up to 12 hours a day.
The possible protection of Epstein by federal and state prosecutors in Florida is likely the reason why the Southern District has public integrity division lawyers on the new case.
The public deserves to know whether the rich can buy protection and, if so, who sold it. President Donald Trump said he would look “very carefully” at Acosta’s role. Acosta should save Trump the effort and resign immediately.
Most important, Trump, who called Epstein a “terrific guy” in 2002, should not use Attorney General William Barr to meddle in the new prosecution. In a bail memo, prosecutors said Epstein tried to obstruct federal investigators in 2008. Epstein shouldn’t be allowed to use his money and connections to try again.