Who Need To Come Forward? GIRLS!
If Alexander Acosta wanted to pull a Kavanaugh, he should have just shouted incoherently about beer at yesterday's press conference. Instead, the Labor secretary -- who a decade ago was the United States Attorney stroking secretive billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's hair while negotiating his plea for molesting what the FBI alleged were dozens of girls -- told a series of easily disprovable lies and then bizarrely blamed Epstein's victims for their own abuse. Cheers!
"The message is you need to come forward," Acosta burbled from the podium. "And as victims come forward, these cases can be brought and they can be brought by the federal government, they can be brought by state attorneys, and they will be brought."
In fact, they did come forward, in the dozens. In September of 2007, then-US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Alexander Acosta's own office sent Epstein's lawyers a letter saying:
Mr. Epstein, through his assistants, would recruit underage females to travel to his home in Palm Beach to engage in lewd conduct in exchange for money. Based upon the investigation, the United States has identified 40 young women who can be characterized as victims pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255. Some of those women went to Mr. Epstein's home only once, some went there as many as 100 times or more. Some of the women's conduct was limited to performing a topless or nude massage while Mr. Epstein masturbated himself. For other women, the conduct escalated to full sexual intercourse.
Acosta's office let Epstein plead down to a single count of soliciting a minor to prostitution (children are not prostitutes), and among all the girls who had come forward, Acosta chose a girl who was 16 years old at the time of the assault to spare Epstein the more onerous sex offender registry requirements associated with younger victims. In fact, one 14-year-old victim had long believed that she was the Jane Doe implicated in Epstein's plea, and only recently discovered the truth after the Miami Herald began digging into the issue.
Yesterday, Acosta sanctimoniously cast himself as swooping in to save the day after state prosecutors bungled the case against Epstein, saying, "The Palm Beach State Attorney's Office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing." That may or may not be true -- and the Palm Beach County state's attorney at the time says it isn't -- but it's basically irrelevant.
Acosta's correct that "The state of Florida and the state attorney's office in Florida is a separate sovereign. The US attorney does not determine how those offices run themselves or what charges they bring." But the opposite is also true. Acosta didn't have to get permission from the state of Florida to charge Epstein with more serious crimes -- that's what "separate sovereign" means! And in May of 2007, he had an 82-page prosecution memo, a 53-page indictment, and dozens of witnesses. By August, his office had identified 12 girls who met the evidentiary standard to draft an "initial planned charging instrument." He could have indicted Epstein for dozens of offenses that would have resulted in real jail time. Instead he let him off with a slap on the wrist, allowing him to sleep in jail and releasing him to work at his office 12 hours a day, six days a week.
To be fair, prosecution is an art, not a science. We can roll our eyes at Acosta's characterization of 2007 as a sepia-tinted bygone era where juries believed fast girls deserved what they got -- "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." But he's right that prosecutors have to take into account the credibility of witnesses and the prejudices of the jury pool. What's not subjective, however, was his office's obligation under the Crime Victims' Rights Act to keep Epstein's victims in the loop about their own cases. And this February, a federal judge found that Acosta's team violated the rights of these girls, in some cases telling them outright lies.
In May of 2008, Jane Doe 5 received a letter from the FBI telling her that "[t]his case is currently under investigation. This can be a lengthy process and we request your continued patience while we conduct a thorough investigation." In reality, Epstein had signed his sweetheart plea deal months before, in September 2007. And yet, when the attorney for Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 called the line prosecutor in Acosta's office in June of 2008, he was told the case was still pending and there was a possibility of further federal charges being filed.
Not only was there no possibility of further charges, Acosta's office had granted immunity to Epstein's co-conspirators, a practice which was largely unprecedented. Moreover, the usual provisions specifying that an agreement with the Southern District of Florida will not bar future prosecutions in other jurisdictions was mysteriously absent in Epstein's plea. Here's an interesting thread by former prosecutor Ken White, AKA Popehat, on the ways this non-prosecution agreement was deviant and perverse. But to summarize, someone monkeyed with the standard language in ways that were extremely favorable to the defendant.
Would it be the same someone who met Epstein's attorney Jay Lefkowitz on October 12, 2007, to make sure that his office's victim notification procedures met with the perpetrator's approval? Dunno! But here's how the federal court described the chain of events in its holding in February:
On October 10, 2007, Lefkowitz sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta stating, in pertinent part: "Neither federal agents nor anyone from your Office should contact the identified individuals to inform them of the resolution of the case, including appointment of the attorney representative and the settlement process. Not only would that violate the confidentiality of the agreement, but Mr. Epstein also will have no control over what is communicated to the identified individuals at this most critical stage. We believe it is essential that we participate in crafting mutually acceptable communication to the identified individuals." The letter further proposed that the attorney representative for the victims be instructed that "[t]he details regarding the United States's investigation of this matter and its resolution with Mr. Epstein is confidential. You may not make public statements regarding this matter." (DE 407 at ¶ 61.)
U.S. Attorney Acosta then met with Lefkowitz for breakfast and Lefkowitz followed up with a letter stating, "I also want to thank you for the commitment you made to me during our October 12 meeting in which you . . . assured me that your Office would not . . . contact any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses, or potential civil claimants and their respective counsel in this matter."
That's so nice.
Asked about it at the press conference yesterday, Acosta defended himself by saying that the breakfast took place after the plea deal was signed in September of 2007. He neglected to to mention that the breakfast took place smack in the middle of contentious negotiations over how and what the victims were going to be told, and that Epstein continued to pressure his contacts in the Justice Department well into January of 2008 to evade compliance with the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
Asked about the court's judgement that his office violated the victims' rights, Acosta said yesterday, "We followed department policy." No doubt this is a great comfort to the dozens of girls Epstein molested.
TL, DR? This is all bullshit. We know he's going to get shitcanned, it's just a question of how long he can limp along with an arrow sticking into his head. He might have impressed Trump by standing up to the lamestream media, but he sure as hell didn't manage to change the narrative, particularly with new victims continuing to come forward with horror stories. Apparently, David Boies is continuing his flame war with Alan Dershowitz (who kept his panties on during that massage, dammit) by representing several of Epstein's child victims.
We give it three weeks.
Labor Secretary Defends Handling of Epstein Plea Deal Amid Calls for His Resignation
Labor Secretary Defends Handling of Epstein Plea Deal Amid Calls for His Resignation www.c-span.org
Follow your FDF on Twitter!Sorry the news is all so gross and depressing. Please support your Wonkette, who really does try to soften the blow!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.