by Ann Diener for VT
Today, Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta faced questioning today by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine in regards to the handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case and plea deal that was negotiated behind closed doors without victim involvement.
Senator Kaine read from the Washington Post article, “Labor nominee Acosta cut deal with billionaire guilty in sex abuse case.”
From the article as read by Senator Kaine, “There was once a time — before the investigations, before the sexual abuse conviction — when rich and famous men loved to hang around with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire money manager who loved to party. They visited his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. They flew on his jet to join him at his private estate on the Caribbean island of Little Saint James. They even joked about his taste in younger women.
“President Trump called Epstein a ‘terrific guy’ back in 2002, saying that ‘he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.’
“Now, Trump is on the witness list in a Florida court battle over how federal prosecutors handled allegations that Epstein, 64, sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. The lawsuit questions why Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, whose Senate confirmation hearing began Wednesday morning, cut a non-prosecution deal with Epstein a decade ago rather than pursuing a federal indictment that Acosta’s staff had advocated.”
Below is the transcript from the hearing this morning, after Senator Kaine read the above article and entered it into the record. Key questions are:
1. As the victim’s testimonies indicate that the crimes happened over state lines including the states of New Mexico and New York as well as internationally in the Virgin Islands and France, why was this case not refereed to Federal Prosecutors and Federal Court that would have had jurisdiction?
2. Beyond just the crimes Epstein plead guilty to, the victims detail how they were used for blackmail purposes by Epstein. If this is remotely a possibility, why would this case not have warranted a thorough Federal Investigation to seek evidence directly tied to those others who may have been involved in sex with underage girls, and identify if there was blackmailable evidence that may pose a risk to national security, which falls directly under the responsibility of a US Attorney?
Senator Kaine: “Can I read one of the statements from the article, ‘Federal prosecutors detailed their findings in an 82 page prosecution memo and a 53 page indictment, but Epstein was never indicted’ and then there’s a quote, ‘this agreement’ the agreement you described,’will not be made part of any public record, the deal between Epstein and Acosta says,’ then the document was unsealed as part of a civil suit in 2015.”
Acosta: “So, Senator, um, again to address your question, I can’t discuss the details of the case but let me take it generally. Um, It is pretty typical in prosecutions for an indictment, a draft indictment to be written. That doesn’t necessarily mean that that draft indictment is filed because that draft indictment does not consider often the strength of the underlying case. And so as part of any plea, it is not unusual to have an indictment that says these are all the places we can go, yet at the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutors office decide that a plea that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally (unusual broad hand gesture) and that guarantees other outcomes is a good thing. And so.”
Is it typical to ignore key individuals involved, including Ghislane Maxwell who procured the young women for Epstein and allegedly for his patrons as well and Leslie Wexner who purchased the New York property where the alleged criminal activity took place?
These allegations could only have been addressed in a Federal case which Acosta neglected to pursue.
According to the US Attorney’s Manual Section 9-2.000
link to US US Attorney’s Manual Section 9-2.000
“The authority, discretionary power, and responsibilities of the United States Attorney with relation to criminal matters encompass without limitation by enumeration the following:
“1. Investigating suspected or alleged offenses against the United States, see USAM 9-2.010.”
Would blackmail of prominent American politicians be considered an offense against the United States?
And, “2. Causing investigations to be conducted by the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies, see USAM 9-2.010.”
As this case involves multiple states and countries wouldn’t Acosta have had to refer it to Federal prosecutors and investigators?
Here is the transcript starting after Senator Kaine reads the paragraphs from the Washington Post.
Senator Kaine: “My understanding is that there is a pending civil lawsuit filed by a couple of the victims in that case seeking to argue that they should have been given notice prior to the plea deal being entered into, is that your understanding as well?”
Acosta, “My understanding is that there is a pending civil lawsuit. The Department of Justice has defended the actions of the office in that matter both under President Bush and President Obama’s Administrations”
Senator Kaine: “The opening that I read suggests that you decided as US Attorney to cut a non-prosecution deal, that part of that decision was that non-prosecution deal be held private not appear in the public record and there is an allegation that I just read that you did not pursue a Federal Indictment, even though your staff had advocated that you do so. Is that accurate?”
Acosta: “That is not accurate. Let me address the um, you know one of the difficulties with the Department of Justice is that the Department of Justice does not litigate in the public record or in the media and litigates in court.
“Let me set forth some facts. This matter was originally a state case. It was presented by a State attorney to the Grand Jury in Palm Beach County. The Grand Jury in Palm Beach County recommended a single count of solicitation not involving minors, I believe and that would have resulted in zero jail time, zero registration as a sexual offender and zero restitution for the victims in this case.
“The matter, um, was then presented to the US Attorney’s office. It is highly unusual and as I was speaking to some of your colleagues, um, that have been involved in prosecutions they mentioned that they don’t know of any cases personally where a US Attorney becomes involved in a matter after it has already gone to a grand jury at the state level.
“In this case we deemed it to become involved. We early on had discussions within the office and we decided that a sentence. Oh, how should I put this, that Mr. Epstein should plead guilty to two years, register as a sex-offender and concede liability so the victims could get restitution. And if that were done, the Federal Interest could be satisfied and we would defer to the State.
“That was very early on in the case. I say that because the article goes on to talk about a view that the US Attorney’s office was not aggressive enough in this matter.”
Senator Kaine: “Can I read one of the statements from the article, ‘Federal prosecutors detailed their findings in an 82 page prosecution memo and a 53 page indictment, but Epstein was never indicted’ and then there’s a quote, ‘this agreement’ the agreement you described,’ will not be made part of any public record, the deal between Epstein and Acosta says,’ then the document was unsealed as part of a civil suit in 2015”
Acosta: “So, Senator, um, again to address your question, I can’t discuss the details of the case but let me take it generally. Um. It is pretty typical in prosecutions for an indictment, a draft indictment to be written. That doesn’t necessarily mean that that draft indictment is filed because that draft indictment does not consider often the strength of the underlying case. And so as part of any plea, it is not unusual to have an indictment that says these are all the places we can go, yet at the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutors office decide that a plea that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally (broad hand gesture) and that guarantees other outcomes is a good thing. And so.”
Senator Kaine: “Was that a consensus decision in your office?”
Acosta: “It was a broadly held decision, yes.”
Senator Kaine: “I’m over my time now Mr. Chair and I’ll, I may come back to this in the second round. Thank you.”
Chair to Acosta: “Do you feel like you have time to sufficiently answer?”
Acosta: “Mr., Mr. Chairman I think I have.”
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