Jeffrey Epstein Sex Trafficked Underage Girls and Trump's Secretary of Labor Illegally Kept Plea Deal From Victims, Federal Judge Says

Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficked underage girls, and President Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, then a federal prosecutor in Miami, illegally kept details of Epstein's plea deal from victims, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

In a 33-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of Palm Beach County, described how evidence showed that Epstein—a multimillionaire hedge fund manager known for his friendships with influential political figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew—paid employees to "obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification but also for the sexual gratification of others."

In a series of explosive stories, the Miami Herald documented how, in 2007, federal prosecutors worked with Epstein's lawyers to put together a plea deal that required the financier to plead guilty to two prostitution charges and serve 13 months in prison, despite overwhelming evidence of a widespread pattern of sex trafficking and sexual assault, and 103 "Jane Doe" victims. The deal ensured Epstein—and his unidentified co-conspirators—immunity from federal prosecution.

Here is the full #PerversionofJustice investigative series about Jeffrey Epstein:

— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) February 21, 2019

Acosta, now U.S. secretary of labor, which has oversight of international human trafficking and child labor violations, had agreed to seal the deal, withholding it from Epstein's victims, many between 13 and 16 years old when they were abused, until it was too late for them to object in court.

Acosta played a major role in the deal that would immunize Epstein and his accomplices from federal prosecution and largely allowed Epstein's lawyers to define the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, according to the Herald. The sealed agreement could potentially name other influential people from Epstein's expansive network of elite friends.

Acosta and representatives from the Department of Labor did not immediately immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.

"I don't think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,'' Michelle Licata, who was 16 when Epstein sexually assaulted her, told the Herald. "He ruined my life and a lot of girls' lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn't prosecuted so it never happens again."

In response, two of Epstein's victims filed suit in Florida, claiming prosecutors had violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act, which grants victims the right to review possible plea deals with prosecutors. On Thursday, Judge Marra agreed, arguing that prosecutors broke the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein's victims.

"Particularly problematic was the Government's decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,'' the judge wrote. "When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein's attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.''

Epstein, now a registered sex offender, is alleged to have trafficked minor girls, many from overseas, for sex parties at homes in Manhattan, New Mexico, the Caribbean and aboard his private plane, sometimes referred to as "The Lolita Express." The Herald identified 80 women who claimed to have been sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006.

"I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy," Trump told New York magazine in 2002. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

Marra's ruling provides 15 days for the government and Epstein's victims to settle on a resolution. A U.S. Department of Justice probe into possible wrongdoing by federal prosecutors is ongoing.

Correction (07/08/19, 12:58 p.m. ET): The non-prosecution plea deal was entered into in 2007, not 2017. Newsweek regrets the error.

Correction (2/22/19): An earlier headline for this story implied Judge Marra said Acosta helped Epstein cover up trafficking. In fact, Judge Marra said Acosta broke the law by witholding information on a plea deal regarding the trafficking case.

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." The headline has been amended and clarifying quotes added to the story. Newsweek regrets the error.