WASHINGTON (CN) — The Justice Department on Thursday reported that former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta exhibited “poor judgment” in his handling of a generous plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein in 2007 but did not commit professional misconduct.
While serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Acosta signed off on a controversial non-prosecution agreement to resolve allegations that Epstein had molested dozens of young girls.
Thursday’s report is the result of an internal investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which probed Acosta’s decision to end the 2006–2008 federal criminal investigation in Florida.
The secretive deal, which was met with heavy criticism and litigation, let the now-deceased high-profile financier plea guilty to state charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.
The agreement allowed Epstein to serve 13 months in a work-release program, make payments to victims and register as a sex offender instead of potentially serving a life sentence.
The DOJ said in its executive summary of the report on Thursday that it looked into interactions between prosecutors and Epstein’s victims, who were not informed before Acosta approved the agreement.
It found that there was no "clear and unambiguous duty" to inform victims prior to striking the deal.
Despite criticizing the then-U.S. Attorney’s handling of the case, the DOJ’s summary says its investigation clears Acosta and other prosecutors of “professional misconduct.”
“While OPR did not find that Department attorneys engaged in professional misconduct, OPR concluded that the victims were not treated with the forthrightness and sensitivity expected by the Department,” the Justice Department’s public affairs office wrote in a statement on Thursday.
Additionally, the DOJ says the report did not conclude that Acosta’s decision to approve the deal “was based on corruption or other impermissible considerations, such as Epstein’s wealth, status, or associations.”
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, slammed the DOJ’s investigation summary on Thursday and argued that justice has not been served.
"Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’ — it is a disgusting failure. Americans ought to be enraged,” the Republican senator said in a statement.
“Jeffrey Epstein should be rotting behind bars today, but the Justice Department failed Epstein’s victims at every turn,” he added.
Calling the plea deal “crooked,” Sasse said the 2007 agreement had “effectively shut down investigations into his child sex trafficking ring and protected his co-conspirators in other states.”
He urged the DOJ to release the entire report but, due to the Privacy Act, the Department said it could not be released to the public in full on Thursday.
According to the DOJ, the full report has been disclosed upon request to at least one congressional committee with jurisdiction over the issue, which is permitted under the Act.
The Department says that it contacted victims and their lawyers on Thursday morning with an invitation to be briefed in order to “fully respect the rights and dignity of Jeffrey Epstein’s many victims.”
“We salute the courage of survivors as they again are confronted with these horrible crimes and their aftermath,” a DOJ spokesperson said in the statement. “The Department will thoroughly review the report, which will inform our implementation of the Crime Victims Rights’ Act and the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Victim and Witness Assistance.”Follow @@ErikaKate5
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