The Miami Herald has a blockbuster story about how super-rich, well-connected sex offender Jeffrey Epstein cut a sweetheart deal with the federal government to avoid prosecution on charges that he forced scores (over 100 that authorities know of) of underage girls into sex. It’s long and it is devastating. It starts like this:
On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.
It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.
Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.
His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.
The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.
Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.
“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,’’ said one of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”
Alex Acosta is now Donald Trump’s Labor secretary. Get this eye-opening detail:
Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers — Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.
Gerald Lefcourt was a law partner to the Sixties radical lawyer William Kunstler. Lefcourt is an iconic left-wing lawyer. Ken Starr is — well, you know who he is. Same with Dershowitz. Epstein covered all his political bases. Best lawyers money could buy.
The terms of Epstein’s special deal are jaw-dropping. Not only were things kept from his victims, but he was allowed to serve his sentence in a private wing of the Palm Beach prison, and allowed to leave during the day to work at a special office he set up for himself.
Here’s a description of the kind of girls he recruited:
Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald.
Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness.
“We were stupid, poor children,’’ said one woman, who did not want to be named because she never told anyone about Epstein. At the time, she recalled that she was 14 and a high school freshman.
“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there.”
The kind of kids who were easy to manipulate, and whose parents wouldn’t have made trouble — and if they had, would have been easy to buy off, or make go away thanks to his connections with the establishment.
These connections paid off when Epstein’s crimes were finally uncovered:
Mike Fisten, a former Miami-Dade police sergeant who was also a homicide investigator and a member of the FBI Organized Crime Task Force, said the FBI had enough evidence to put Epstein away for a long time but was overruled by Acosta. Some of the agents involved in the case were disappointed by Acosta’s bowing to pressure from Epstein’s lawyers, he said.
In Part II of the story, reporter Julie K. Brown details how Epstein’s A-team of lawyers more or less owned Acosta and the federal prosecutors. The government’s abject failures were and are scandalous:
Acosta also described what he called a “year-long assault’’ on prosecutors by Epstein’s “army of legal superstars’’ who, he said, investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for “personal peccadilloes’’ to disqualify them from Epstein’s case.
Dershowitz, in an interview, denied that Epstein’s lawyers would ever investigate prosecutors.
Documents nevertheless show that Acosta not only buckled under pressure from Epstein’s lawyers, but he and other prosecutors worked with them to contain the case, even as the FBI was uncovering evidence of victims and witnesses in other states, FBI and federal court documents show.
A 53-page federal indictment had been prepared in 2007, and subpoenas were served on several of Epstein’s employees, compelling them to testify before a federal grand jury. The court records reveal that emails began to fly back and forth between prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team. Those emails show that federal prosecutors kept acquiescing to Epstein’s demands.
This raises a question: What, if anything, did Epstein’s investigators find out about Acosta and/or others on his team? Anything blackmailable? How else could one explain this kind of sniveling acquiescence?
Part III of the three-part series personalizes the sordid Epstein epic.
The behavior of Acosta and the prosecutors is beyond contempt. They let this monster — a friend of Bill Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s — get away with raping and molesting over 100 underage girls. Why? Because he was rich and connected?
There ought to be Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. There would be, if Sen. Chuck Grassley had the moral courage to schedule them. I hope he does.