Alex Acosta – President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of labor – claims to be tough on sex crimes, but the offering of a "non-prosecution agreement" in the 2007 Epstein case has become a topic of controversy.
The Kent Frank Case
As Miami's U.S. attorney a decade ago, Acosta led the prosecution in the sex tourism with children case of Kent Frank,650, a Miami Beach father who traveled to Cambodia and paid for sex with three underage girls.
Under federal court, Frank was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years. Acosta declared that society "cannot permit such individuals to seek sanctuary in our community" in a news release, and vowed to "prosecute sexual abuse of children aggressively."
However, Acosta made a contrasting decision in a more disturbing case a few months later, which could come back to haunt his Senate confirmation hearing.
The Jeffrey Epstein Case & A "Sweetheart Plea Deal"
Between 1999 and 2005, Jeffrey Epstein – a billionaire Wall Street money manager – had paid dozens of underage girls cash to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and sexual intercourse in his mansions located in Palm Beach, New York City, and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the help of his private staff. Epstein – defended by an illustrious legal team – pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting minors for prostitution, forcing him to register as a sex offender in Florida and pay damages to 40 female victims between ages 13 and 17 years old.
According to the plea agreement negotiated by Acosta's office, Epstein would not be charged in federal court, despite the 53-page indictment proposal by the feds which carried penalties ranging from a mandatory 10-year prison sentence up to a life sentence. In the end, Epstein served just more than a year in Palm Beach County Stockade, a sentence which allowed him to go to work or do whatever he pleased for six days out of every week.
"Clearly, Epstein received preferential treatment due to his wealth, race and political connections," said Miami attorney Joel DeFabio in the Miami Herald. "The charges against Epstein were outrageous, and the evidence was more than enough to obtain at trial."
Furthermore, the "non-prosecution agreement" by Acosta immunized several of Epstein's co-conspirators from federal prosecution, as well as initially kept secret from the victims. It will be up to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions to take a look into the billionaire's case.
"The fact that Epstein's wealth enabled him to hire a stellar legal team should not be a valid reason for such a gross disparity in treatment," stated DeFabio. "This matter should be explored by the [Senate] confirmation committee to ensure that Acosta will be committed to equal treatment under the law of all Americans and that he will never give preferential treatment to the wealthy and politically connected."
Three years after Epstein's guilty plea, Acosta broke his silence about the case due to the public backlash over the billionaire's plea deal. He defended his decision by stating that the Palm Beach County state attorney's office had initially charged Epstein with only soliciting a prostitute, a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and no jail time, but had helped strengthened the case to charged him additionally with soliciting minors for prostitution, Florida sex offender registration, and restitutions to victims.
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