Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will be resigning his position following criticism for a plea deal he helped orchestrate for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008. Epstein was under a federal investigation for molesting dozens of underage girls, but Acosta, who was a U.S. Attorney in Florida at the time, secured a plea deal that ended the investigation and resulted in Epstein pleading guilty to lower state charges.
He was sentenced to just 18 months in jail, despite facing life in prison on the charges. He was released after spending 13 months behind bars. During his time in prison, Epstein was allowed to leave to go to work and even had his own private security detail to protect him while in lockup.
The details of the plea deal came under scrutiny after Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. They accused Epstein of running a sex trafficking ring for underage girls and molesting them at his homes in New York and Florida.
Democrats have been calling on Acosta to step down as new details about his handling of the 2008 case came to light. Senators Patty Murray and Tim Kaine wrote a letter to Department of Justice highlighting parts of the new indictment that allege Acosta knew Epstein's legal team had harassed some of the witnesses, but did not bring any charges.
"In its bail memorandum, SDNY attorneys cite discussions between Epstein's lawyers and the Florida DOJ lawyers that demonstrate DOJ knew at the time about issues of obstruction, harassment, and witness tampering," they wrote. "Then-United States Attorney Alexander Acosta subsequently did not bring charges for these offenses, once again illustrating the inequities in our justice system in favor of the rich and powerful."
Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will be named as the acting director of the agency when Acosta leaves his position next week.
"I do not think it is right and fair to have this administration's Labor Department have Epstein (as) the focus," Acosta told reporters. "I told [President Donald Trump] that I felt the right thing was to step aside."
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