Today, Alex Acosta formally resigned as labor secretary amid controversy stemming from a lenient plea deal he offered as US Attorney to billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted last week on charges of sex trafficking and abuse. During Acosta’s announcement, Trump emphasized to reporters that the resignation was solely Acosta’s decision.
Yesterday, House Democrats called for a briefing from the Justice Department on Acosta’s role in a 2008 case involving sex trafficking charges against Epstein. Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates also called on Acosta to resign. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter, writing that “@SecretaryAcosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice.”
Epstein was arrested July 6 on a charge of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors and on one count of sex trafficking of minors. When federal agents searched Manhattan home, they discovered numerous lewd photographs of young women. Prosecutors noted that “thousands of sexually suggestive pictures of young women and girls seized in his Manhattan home demonstrate the predatory attitude that Mr. Epstein continues to have towards young women.”
Epstein’s July arrest has drawn attention to his past criminal history. In 2008, he was accused of sex trafficking young women in his Palm Beach home as well as in Manhattan and the Caribbean. Despite these horrendous accusations, Epstein plead guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitutes, for which he served 13 months in county jail and registered as a sex offender. His sex trafficking charges, which Epstein would have had to serve life imprisonment for, were dropped by Acosta, who at the time was the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. The plea deal that Acosta offered Epstein was incredibly lenient: the FBI investigation into the sex trafficking charges was called to an end and Epstein’s accomplices in the crimes were granted immunity. To ensure that the victims of Epstein’s crimes would not attempt to challenge the non-prosecution agreement, Acosta also helped conceal the deal from victims.
Media Resources: Twitter 7/8/19, Feminist Newswire 7/10/19, New York Times 7/11/19, BuzzFeed News 7/12/19, New York Times 7/12/19