Before becoming U.S. Secretary of Labor (and ninth in the presidential line of succession), Alexander Acosta helped billionaire Jeffrey Epstein avoid hard jail time for sex trafficking.
Now that Epstein is in the news once again for newly unsealed sex trafficking charges, Acosta’s name has also surfaced, prompting the hashtag #AcostaResign to trend nationally on Twitter. According to the New York Times, Epstein is accused of running a pedophilia ring out of his Manhattan and Florida mansions, creating “a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach.”
The new indictment also alleges that Epstein has “a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls.”
In 2008, when Acosta was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, he brokered a plea deal with Epstein in which the alleged pedophile pleaded guilty to prostitution charges and registered as a sex offender. However, instead of doing hard time, Epstein was allowed to work out of his own office for 12 hours a day, six days a week, and spend the rest of his 13-month sentence in a private wing of the prison, away from the general population.
However, that plea deal came into question earlier this year, when U.S. District Judge Kenneth Mara accused Acosta of violating the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by negotiating the plea deal with Epstein without first consulting with Epstein’s alleged victims. In the 2008 case, the billionaire was accused of holding multiple girls captive between the ages of 13 and 16, raping them repeatedly, and inviting his friends to come to his home and also rape his young captives. While the deal included immunity for Epstein, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District for New York Geoffrey Berman said the deal only applies to the Southern District of Florida.
Some of Epstein’s associates include President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. According to a 2016 lawsuit, a Jane Doe (unidentified woman) accused Epstein and Trump of raping her when she was just 13 years old. For his part, President Clinton flew on Epstein’s private plane, dubbed the “Lolita Express” in the vein of the Vladimir Nabokov novel about a man lusting after a 12-year-old girl.
If convicted, Epstein could serve as many as 45 years in prison. Acosta has not yet resigned as of this writing.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.