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Jeffrey Epstein's Former Prosecutors Used 'Poor Judgment' In Deal, DOJ Says

The Justice Department found Thursday that former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, shown here during a 2019 Cabinet meeting at the White House, showed "poor judgment" in the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein.
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The Justice Department found Thursday that former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, shown here during a 2019 Cabinet meeting at the White House, showed "poor judgment" in the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

Former federal prosecutors used "poor judgment" in crafting the 2008 nonprosecution deal for Jeffrey Epstein but didn't commit professional misconduct or break the law, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The Office of Professional Responsibility's investigation, which lasted more than a year, focused on the role of President Trump's former labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, and other attorneys involved in crafting Epstein's nonprosecution agreement.

Federal investigators under the supervision of then-U.S. Attorney Acosta looked into possible charges against Epstein at the request of the Palm Beach police chief and lead detective, who the DOJ report says were dissatisfied with the state attorney's handling of the case.

Acosta was in charge of what many have called a lenient deal for Epstein. The deal allowed the wealthy hedge fund manager to avoid harsher federal penalties on allegations he abused underage girls in return for pleading guilty to Florida state charges.

Under the agreement, Epstein served 13 months in Palm Beach County jail with a work release during the day. He also had to register as a sex offender.

The Office of Professional Responsibility's findings in the 13-page executive summary exonerate Acosta and other attorneys from allegations they made this deal under a corrupt bargain with Epstein and his legal team.

There was "no evidence" that Acosta's decision to pursue the deal with Epstein "was based on corruption or other impermissible considerations, such as Epstein's wealth, status, or associations," the office said in its report summary.

"Acosta should have ensured more effective coordination and communication during the negotiations and before approving the final [nonprosecution agreement]," it said. "The NPA was a unique resolution, and one that required greater oversight and supervision than Acosta provided."

Victims weren't informed of, or consulted about, the deal before its signing. They were left, the report said, "feeling confused and ill-treated by the government."

A Miami Herald investigative report in November 2018 put the case back in the spotlight. It showed in detail how Epstein coerced young girls into engaging in sexual activity and continued to do so even after the deal with prosecutors.

Acosta faced heavy public scrutiny and calls to resign during his time as labor secretary following the release of the story. Though he maintained his actions at the time were appropriate, Acosta resignedfrom his post as secretary in July 2019 after months of scrutiny.

More charges were brought against Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York that same month. The indictment charged Epstein with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

On Aug. 10, 2019, Epstein, who was awaiting trial, died by suicide in his jail cell.

New York federal prosecutors are still digging into Epstein's network. Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and longtime friend of Epstein's, was charged earlier this summer with recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein to abuse. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

Acosta couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.
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