It's long been known that billionaire financial adviser Jeffrey Epstein got a sweet plea deal from Florida prosecutors, serving just 13 months in a private wing of the county jail followed by a year of house arrest rather than the massive sentence he could have faced had he been hit with sex trafficking charges over allegations that he molested dozens of underage girls between 2001 and 2005, some of whom he was suspected of trafficking from overseas. Instead, he pleaded guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution from someone underage. In an extensive new piece for the Miami Herald based on thousands of emails, court documents, and FBI records, plus interviews with key players, Julie K. Brown looks at what President Trump's current labor secretary had to do with the deal. Then Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta forged the deal, which hid the full extent of the crimes Epstein was suspected of, with Epstein's attorney Jay Lefkowitz.
Miami police referred the Epstein investigation to the FBI a year after it was launched, due to suspicions that the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office was undermining their investigation. The non-prosecution agreement forged by Acosta ultimately scuttled that FBI probe before it could determine the scope of a possible international sex trafficking operation and whether any other powerful people were involved. It also concealed the deal from victims until a judge approved it, meaning none of the victims were able to attempt to derail it. "The conspiracy between the government and Epstein was really ‘let’s figure out a way to make the whole thing go away as quietly as possible,'" says an attorney representing several victims. One expert compares it to the Catholic Church's cover-up of pedophile priests. Brown's story comes as two upcoming civil lawsuits could shed more light on Epstein's alleged crimes, giving some of his victims their day in court after more than a decade. Read the full article here. (Read more Longform stories.)