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Labor Secretary Alex Acosta insisted this week that he and the prosecutors under him did the best they could to serve the people who were sexually abused by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein as children. But his defense ignores both the reality of what today’s sexual assault victims face and the results of sex trafficking prosecution at the time.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Acosta responded to calls for his resignation in the aftermath of Epstein’s arrest. Acosta served as the top federal prosecutor in Miami in 2008 and oversaw a sweetheart deal given to Epstein, who at the time was facing possible federal indictment for sexually assaulting dozens of girls. Epstein’s victims were not told about the plea deal, which allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge and serve 13 months in jail.
Acosta maintained the deal was the best option due to a radically different environment for sexual assault survivors in the 2008 justice system. There was a lot of victim shaming then, he said, and he didn’t believe the victims should go through it.
He refused several opportunities to apologize to the victims directly. To top it off, Acosta also encouraged sexual assault victims to come forward — and seemed to blame the victims themselves for not speaking out.
Implicit in Acosta’s argument are two things. First, Acosta believes that despite the dozens of victims involved in the case, there simply wasn’t enough evidence for prosecutors to be certain that Epstein would end up a registered sex offender and serve time behind bars without the deal.
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