Former state's attorney pushes back against Acosta account of Epstein case

A former state's attorney in Palm Beach County, Fla., pushed back on Wednesday against Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Trump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions NBC News releases video showing Trump, Epstein at 1992 party MORE's portrayal of events surrounding a favorable deal for financier Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.

Barry Krischer, the Palm Beach County state's attorney at the time of the investigation, called Acosta's account, which alleged Krischer was prepared to let Epstein walk without serving jail time until Acosta's office stepped in, "completely wrong."

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Acosta "should not be allowed to rewrite history," Krischer said in a statement.

Acosta held a news conference earlier in the day in which he adamantly defended his work as U.S. attorney in brokering an agreement to ensure Epstein spent time in prison and was required to register as a sex offender. 

Since Epstein was charged Monday with sex trafficking in New York City, Acosta has come under scrutiny for his role in negotiating that 2008 deal in Florida in which Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution under Florida law, registered as a sex offender and spent just over a year in prison while having work-release privileges.

The Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office had prepared a federal indictment against Epstein, but it was never filed. Acosta has also faced criticism for failing to disclose the plea deal to Epstein’s victims, something he said would have jeopardized the agreement. 

Krischer downplayed his office's role in the eventual plea deal, and alleged the U.S. Attorney's Office abandoned its federal indictment after "secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein's lawyers and Mr. Acosta."

"If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the State’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted," Krischer said.

Krischer said his office subpoenaed witnesses took evidence to a grand jury, which returned a single felony count indictment against Epstein of soliciting prostitution.

But Palm Beach police who worked the case at the time told The Miami Herald as part of an investigation published in November that they felt pressured by Krischer to downgrade Epstein's case to a misdemeanor or to drop it entirely.

Acosta did not refer to Krischer by name during Wednesday's news conference but spoke of the Palm Beach County state's attorney. He described his own office as stepping in to ensure Epstein faced some form of punishment.

"Simply put, the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office was ready to let Epstein walk free. No jail time. Nothing," Acosta said. "Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable, and we became involved."

The Labor secretary has faced mounting calls to resign from Democrats, who argue that he negotiated a "sweetheart deal" for Epstein that led to the further victimization of additional young women and girls.

Acosta on Wednesday repeatedly said his team's focus was to ensure Epstein went to jail. He expressed empathy for the victims but did not offer an apology.

“Everything that the victims have gone through in these cases is horrific, and their response is entirely justified,” he said. “At the same time, I think it’s important to stand up for the prosecutors of my former office and make clear that what they were trying to do was help these victims. They should not be portrayed as individuals that just didn’t care.”