A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors, including future Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, violated the law when they did not tell victims the government had struck a deal not to prosecute Jeffrey Epstein, a politically connected billionaire accused of molesting dozens of young girls.
The ruling was a stinging rebuke for prosecutors and how they behaved in a grim, high-profile case that has drawn increased scrutiny in recent months. A Miami Herald investigation last year highlighted the allegations and Acosta’s role in cutting a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein, while a Justice Department office said it is exploring whether the federal prosecutors who reached the deal committed “professional misconduct.”
District Judge Kenneth A. Marra was blunt, ruling that prosecutors had acted improperly in reaching the agreement with Epstein — which stopped federal action in exchange for him pleading guilty to a state charge — without telling the victims. Marra, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote in a 33-page ruling that the actions violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), which entitles victims to know about significant events in their cases.
Marra wrote that he was “not ruling that the decision not to prosecute was improper,” noting he was “simply ruling that, under the facts of this case, there was a violation of the victims rights under the CVRA.”
Prosecutors did not give victims a chance “to affect prosecutorial decisions” and did not accurately tell them about what was happening, Marra wrote. Prosecutors sought “to conceal the existence” of the deal cut with Epstein “and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,” he wrote.
“While the government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the NPA [non-prosecution agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims,” Marra wrote. “Instead, the victims were told to be ‘patient’ while the investigation proceeded.”
He added: “When the government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading.”
Asked by reporters Friday morning about the judge’s ruling, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House was looking into the situation. Sanders also said she was “not aware of any changes” regarding Trump’s confidence in Acosta.
“My understanding is it’s a very complicated case, something we’re certainly looking into, but that they made the best possible decision and deal that they could have gotten at that time,” she said. “But again, that’s something we’re looking into.”