A federal judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors, including current Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaOn The Money: Trump slams relief bill, calls on Congress to increase stimulus money | Biden faces new critical deadlines after relief package | Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority MORE, broke the law by making a plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein — who was accused of molesting numerous girls — without conferring with his victims.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra said prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) when they signed the plea more than a decade ago. The law guarantees victims a series of rights, including the right to confer with prosecutors.
"Under the facts of this case, once the Government failed to advise the victims about its intention to enter into the [plea agreement], a violation of the CVRA occurred," Marra wrote.
Epstein was offered a plea deal sentencing him to 13 months in jail after he was accused of sex trafficking. The deal also gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution.
Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Miami at the time and helped negotiate the plea deal.
Thursday's ruling comes after two of Epstein's victims originally brought a lawsuit in 2008 in the Southern District of Florida, arguing that prosecutors violated the CVRA.
In the ruling, Marra wrote that in addition to concealing the plea agreement, prosecutors misled victims to "believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility."
"When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading," Marra wrote. "While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the NPA with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims. Instead, the victims were told to be 'patient' while the investigation proceeded."
The ruling comes after the Miami Herald reported a three-part series last year detailing the agreement between prosecutors and Epstein's attorneys.
The Department of Justice has since launched an investigation into prosecutors' handling of the deal.
Brad Edwards, an attorney based in Fort Lauderdale who originally brought the case, told the Herald he was thrilled with Thursday’s ruling but added that he was “bitter” that it took 11 years to arrive at the decision.
“The Government aligned themselves with Epstein, working against his victims, for 11 years. Yes, this is a huge victory, but to make his victims suffer for 11 years, this should not have happened. Instead of admitting what they did, and doing the right thing, they spent 11 years fighting these girls," Edwards said.