Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Wednesday defied calls by congressional leaders to resign over the lenient 2008 plea deal he gave to child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was the U.S. attorney in Florida. The plea deal saw Epstein serve a 13-month prison term, though he was allowed to leave jail six days a week to work from his private office. He would be picked up by his private chauffeur and returned in the evenings. It’s been described as “one of the most lenient deals for a serial child sex offender in history.” The case drew renewed attention this week, when Epstein was charged in a Manhattan federal court with sexually assaulting and trafficking dozens of underage girls between 2002 and 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He’s pleaded not guilty. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled Secretary Acosta’s team violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to inform Epstein’s survivors about the non-prosecution deal. Speaking to reporters for nearly an hour Wednesday, Secretary Acosta did not once apologize to Epstein’s victims, and defended his handling of the case.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta: “We believe that we proceeded appropriately, that based on the evidence—and not just my opinion, but I’ve shared the affidavit—based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register. Look, no regrets is a very hard question.”