Speaking from the Labor Department in Washington D.C. Wednesday afternoon, Secretary Alex Acosta defended the handling of a case against pedophile Jeffery Epstein back in 2008. At the time, Acosta was the U.S. Attorney in Florida and his handling of the case is under scrutiny after Epstein was arrested by federal authorities over the weekend. He has been charged with a series of sexual crimes, including sex trafficking of minors.
"Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, and will appear in court in New York on Monday, according to three law enforcement sources. Saturday's arrest by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force comes about 12 years after the 66-year-old financier essentially got a slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida," the Daily Beast reported over the weekend. "For more than a decade, Epstein’s alleged abuse of minors has been the subject of lawsuits brought by victims, investigations by local and federal authorities, and exposés in the press. But despite the attention cast on his alleged sex crimes, the hedge-funder has managed to avoid any meaningful jail time, let alone federal charges."
Acosta took to the microphones in front of a room full of reporters to defend his handling of the 2008 case, which stemmed from a single Florida state charge against Epstein.
"I absolutely welcome this New York prosecution, it is absolutely the right thing to do," Acosta said. "We believe that we proceeded appropriately, based on the evidence."
"Without the work of our prosecutors, Epstein would have gotten away," Acosta argued. "The Palm Beach attorney's office was ready to let Epstein walk free."
According to Acosta, obtaining a guilty plea deal from Epstein resulted in jail time and a sex offender registration, which was better than losing at trial. Epstein served 13 months of an 18-month sentence and was allowed to leave jail for work purposes. Despite being standard practice, Epstein's victims weren't notified about the plea deal ahead of time.
Citing a leading prosecutor on the case, Acosta made the argument that the facts at the time could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court due to some victims, young children, refusing to testify and even some witnesses exonerating Epstein.
"There was value in getting a secure guilty plea and to have him register," Acosta said, adding he wanted to help his victims by putting him away. "There is a value to a short guilty plea, because letting him walk...would have been absolutely awful."
Acosta reiterated that the case was an unusual one that started at the state level and federal prosecutors had to intervene.
Labor Sec. Alex Acosta says "Epstein's actions absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence."— ABC News (@ABC) July 10, 2019
"He should be prosecuted in any state in which he committed a crime...if there are other states that can bring state charges, they should consider those, as well." https://t.co/RNjAFJIH1C pic.twitter.com/ra8M2GDlWF
As far as his future in the Trump administration, Epstein said his relationship with the president is solid and that he has his support.
"My relationship with the president is outstanding," he said.
Acosta also said his relationship with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is excellent and any reports to the contrary are "bs."
Labor Sec. Alex Acosta says he and Pres. Trump have spoken, and the president "has very publicly made clear that I've got his support."— ABC News (@ABC) July 10, 2019
He also called reports of conflicts between he and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney "BS." https://t.co/Pz91Rp2nid pic.twitter.com/Xi1a96f1sf