Labor Secretary Alex Acosta on Tuesday defended the secret plea deal he reached in 2008 with accused child predator Jeffrey Epstein allowing the billionaire to avoid federal prosecution and a possible life sentence.
In a series of tweets, Acosta said the new charges against Epstein ― which include child sex trafficking ― could “more fully bring him to justice,” but defended his earlier decision amid calls for his resignation from Democratic lawmakers and survivors of sexual abuse.
“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta tweeted.
The 2008 plea deal, approved by Acosta in his role as Miami’s top federal prosecutor, lightened the potential consequences for Epstein, accused then as he is now of sexually assaulting dozens of underage girls in his Palm Beach mansion. The deal also helped keep the names of his alleged co-conspirators out of court documents. The well-connected financier was sentenced to only 13 months, most of which was spent in an office on work release, and had to register as a sex offender.
The deal came under new scrutiny this year after a federal judge ruled that the prosecutors working under Acosta at the time broke the law by keeping the agreement secret from Epstein’s victims.
Epstein, 66, was arrested on Saturday and faces new charges for the alleged sex trafficking operation he ran out of his New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, homes between 2002 and 2005.
Top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), were calling for Acosta’s resignation this week over the “unconscionable” plea deal.
“This was known by [President Donald Trump] when he appointed him to the Cabinet,” Pelosi tweeted. “Secretary Acosta must step down.”
But on Tuesday, Acosta defended his decision, saying that not all the new evidence was available back then.
“With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator,” he tweeted. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, reportedly said he felt bad for Acosta.