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During his tenure as Miami’s top federal prosecutor, the Trump administration’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta helped a serial sex abuser evade justice while concealing the backroom deal from dozens of his child victims, according to a staggering new investigation from the Miami Herald. With Acosta’s assistance, a 53-page federal indictment that could have sent millionaire hedge fund manager Jeffery Epstein to prison for life turned into a mere 13 months in county jail, where he was allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

The Herald published the bombshell multi-part investigation behind Epstein’s “sex pyramid scheme” and the powerful figures who tried to further help cushion the fallout for Epstein in the years since, including Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

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Epstein coerced underage girls into sexual acts at his Palm Beach mansion in exchange for money, the Herald reports. According to former Palm Beach police detective Joseph Recarey, during these “massage” sessions, “Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls.”

Courtney Wild, one of Epstein’s victims who is now 31 years old, told the Herald that she was 14 when she first met him and worked for him until she was 21. Wild was often tasked with recruiting young girls. “If I had a girl to bring him at breakfast, lunch and dinner, then that’s how many times I would go a day,” said Wild. “He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.’’

In their investigation, the Herald identified “80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006.”

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To say this is egregious is a gross understatement. But it’s made all the more nauseating by Acosta facilitating a “non-prosecution deal”—a plea arrangement that “conceal[s] the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved” and effectively ended an FBI probe into his activities—as an apparent solid to Epstein’s attorney, Jay Lefkowitz, a former colleague of his:

...Court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.

“The damage that happened in this case is unconscionable,” said Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents some of Epstein’s victims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?”

As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.

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The plea also concealed the deal from Epstein’s victims. The Herald notes that it was “sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls—or anyone else—might show up in court and try to derail it.”

However, survivors will soon get their day in court due to two civil suits against Epstein. One suit is attempting to “invalidate” the non-prosecution deal. This could potentially send Epstein to federal prison:

Federal prosecutors, including Acosta, not only broke the law, the women contend in court documents, but they conspired with Epstein and his lawyers to circumvent public scrutiny and deceive his victims in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. The law assigns victims a series of rights, including the right of notice of any court proceedings and the opportunity to appear at sentencing.

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Still, they deserved so much better a decade ago.

Acosta’s role as a prosecutor was supposed to be as an advocate for girls who survived years of sexual exploitation under Epstein. Instead, he protected their abuser from facing meaningful consequences.

The Epstein case came up during Acosta’s confirmation hearing. Here was his take on the whole ordeal:

“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,’’ Acosta said of his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally.

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Meanwhile, survivors of Epstein are still suffering.

“You beat yourself up mentally and physically,’’ said Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, who said Epstein molested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room.’’

Read the full story at The Miami Herald.