A U.S. Justice Department report has found former labour secretary Alex Acosta exercised “poor judgment” in handling an investigation when he was a top federal prosecutor in Florida into wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The report, obtained by The Associated Press, is a culmination of an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility over Acosta’s handling of a secret plea deal with Epstein, who had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
Under the 2008 non-prosecution agreement — also known as an NPA — Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. That allowed him to avert a possible life sentence, instead serving 13 months in a work-release program. He was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.
The investigation centred on two aspects of the Epstein case — whether prosecutors erred or committed misconduct by resolving the allegations through a non-prosecution agreement, and also whether they mishandled interactions with victims in the case.
The report concludes that none of the attorneys committed misconduct in their interactions with the victims because there was no “clear and unambiguous duty” to consult with victims before entering into the non-prosecution agreement.
Epstein was later charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for nearly identical allegations in 2019 but was found dead in his cell on Aug. 10, 2019, while in federal custody as he awaited trial.
The Justice Department’s internal probe concluded that Acosta’s “decision to resolve the federal investigation through the NPA constitutes poor judgment.”
Investigators found that although it was within his broad discretion and did not result from “improper favours,” the agreement was “a flawed mechanism for satisfying the federal interest that caused the government to open its investigation of Epstein.”
The investigation included interviews with more than 60 witnesses and a review of hundreds of thousands of Justice Department records. Officials from the Office of Professional Responsibility identified as subjects of the investigation Acosta, three former supervisors in his prosecuting office as well as an assistant United States attorney involved in the Epstein case.