Lawmakers call for investigation into Labor Secretary Acosta for sex offender plea deal

A group of 15 Democratic lawmakers is calling for an investigation into Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaSasse calls on DOJ to investigate its handling of wealthy sex offender's plea deal Accusers won't testify for now against wealthy sex offender: report Lawmakers call for investigation into Labor Secretary Acosta for sex offender plea deal MORE's conduct following an investigation into a 2007 plea deal he struck with an alleged serial sex offender when he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

The lawmakers, which include 10 representatives from Florida, are asking the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General to investigate the "circumstances" surrounding the nonprosecution agreement Acosta entered into with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy Florida investor who was convicted on two counts of prostitution in 2007. 

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A new Miami Herald investigation provides details into the deal Acosta and Epstein struck after Epstein was accused of sexually abusing dozens of young girls, many of whom were minors. Epstein was facing a life sentence in federal prison but only served 13 months in county jail as a result of the plea deal with Acosta. 

"As Members of Congress intent on ensuring the equal application of justice and gravely concerned with the plague of sex trafficking and sexual abuse, we urge you to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the non-prosecution agreement Mr. Acosta entered into with Mr. Epstein," the lawmakers wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill.

The Herald report quotes multiple people involved in the 2007 case who accuse Acosta of caving to pressure from Epstein's lawyers to cut a preferential deal. Epstein originally faced a 53-page indictment for sex trafficking and related crimes. 

According to the letter, the 2007 deal also shut down the FBI investigation into whether Epstein had abused more girls. 

"Based on newly-reported documents and a group of brave women coming forward to share their stories, it appears that, as a federal prosecutor, Labor Secretary Alex AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaSasse calls on DOJ to investigate its handling of wealthy sex offender's plea deal Accusers won't testify for now against wealthy sex offender: report Lawmakers call for investigation into Labor Secretary Acosta for sex offender plea deal MORE gave a sweetheart deal to a wealthy and well-connected serial sex offender, and hid it from dozens of victims, some of whom were still coming forward," Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot Lawmakers call for investigation into Labor Secretary Acosta for sex offender plea deal Corsi says he will file 'criminal charges' against Mueller MORE (D-Fla.) said in a statement to The Hill. 

Wasserman Schultz is one of the letter's signatories. In the statement, she called Acosta's decision to reduce the criminal penalties against Epstein "unethical." 

Acosta declined to comment to the Herald, but he wrote in a 2010 "To whom it may concern” released to media organizations that the case against Epstein grew stronger after he was convicted, as more women came forward with allegations against him. 

"The bottom line is this: Mr. Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire, served time in jail and is now a registered sex offender," Acosta wrote at the time.

"This matter has been publicly addressed previously, including during confirmation hearings," a Labor Department spokesman said in a statement to The Hill. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida has defended the actions in this case across three administrations."

The lawmakers are calling on the Office of the Inspector General to take up the complaint because Acosta was a U.S. attorney at the time.

Acosta was pressed over the deal with Epstein during his 2017 confirmation hearings, but the Herald story provided previously unreported details about the case and highlighted the stories of women who say they felt silenced by the deal.

Epstein has been accused of assembling a network of minors to coerce into sexual acts at his home on a daily basis in the early 2000s. The deal offered him and four accomplices immunity from all federal criminal charges. 

The lawmakers in the letter called that deal "extremely preferential." 

"The lack of public transparency further necessitates an internal review," the lawmakers wrote. "In the conduct of such investigation, we urge you to review whether any Department of Justice policies, procedures, or practices were violated and determine what, if any, violations were committed by then-United States Attorney and current Secretary of Labor Acosta." 

A financial settlement was reached on Tuesday in a long-running civil lawsuit against Epstein, meaning none of Epstein's alleged victims will testify in court, for now, The Associated Press reported.

The details of the settlement have not been made public. 

An attorney for Bradley Edwards, who was seeking damages from Epstein, announced the financial settlement in a Florida court on Tuesday morning. Edwards called it a "win," local NBC affiliate WPTV reported.

Updated at 11:35 a.m.