Cantwell, Murray, Colleagues Urge Department of Justice to Investigate Decision-Making Process for Epstein Case

According to a new Miami Herald investigation, Jeffrey Epstein was given “the deal of a lifetime” in 2007 when he and then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta entered a non-prosecution agreement.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), along with 14 of their Senate colleagues, sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General requesting an investigation into the DOJ’s decision-making process when then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta entered into a non-prosecution agreement with accused serial sexual abuser Jeffrey Epstein. 

Questions about Acosta’s involvement in the Epstein case were raised during his nomination process for Secretary of Labor; the call for investigations from the DOJ Inspector General comes after new information was brought to light in reporting on the case by the Miami Herald

“We are deeply concerned by Mr. Epstein’s horrific, serial abuse of children and new revelations about the process by which he was given, to quote the Herald, ‘the deal of a lifetime,’” the Senators wrote. “It is essential that an independent investigatory office conduct an investigation to determine whether DOJ policies and procedures were followed in this matter.” 

In addition to the request for an independent investigation, the Senators also voiced concern that the plea bargain Acosta struck with Epstein—which was kept secret from the victims—violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which provides victims with important protections, including the right to be informed of any plea agreement. Epstein was accused of coercing underage girls into sex acts in his home in Florida and of trafficking dozens of young girls, often from overseas. The non-prosecution agreement required Epstein to only serve 13 months in county prison, where he was allowed to leave each day to go to work, and essentially shut down an ongoing FBI investigation into whether there were more victims or more people involved in Epstein’s crimes. 

In addition to Senators Cantwell and Murray, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). 

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

December 6, 2018
The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20530-0001 

Dear Inspector General Horowitz:

We write to request that your office conduct an investigation regarding the decision-making process by which the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed, deliberated upon, and entered into a plea agreement with Jeffrey Epstein. As you are aware, considerable public attention is being paid to this matter in the wake of recent investigative journalism centered on the propriety and legality of the agreement, brokered on behalf of DOJ by then-United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida R. Alexander Acosta, who currently serves as Secretary of the Department of Labor.

In an article published on November 28, 2018, the Miami Herald revealed new details about the interconnected relationships between the prosecution and defense and explored many of the horrifying details of the alleged actions of Mr. Epstein, including child sex trafficking.[1] We are deeply concerned by Mr. Epstein’s horrific, serial abuse of children and new revelations about the process by which he was given, to quote the Herald, “the deal of a lifetime.” It is essential that an independent investigatory office conduct an investigation to determine whether DOJ policies and procedures were followed in this matter.

We understand that similar requests have been made of your office by other Members of Congress with respect to this matter and that the subject matter is substantively and procedurally complex. While it is important that federal prosecutors are provided flexibility to strike plea bargains that serve the interests of justice and make our nation both safer and more fair, such negotiations and agreements must comport with federal law and DOJ policy, including ethical guidelines, and must be struck on terms that are beyond reproach.

The federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act provides numerous protections for victims of crime, including “the right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.”[2] We are concerned about whether this agreement is in compliance with the law, based on reported interviews with a number of Mr. Epstein’s victims who deny being informed, as well as court filings by DOJ seeking to justify the Department’s secrecy by claiming Mr. Epstein’s “concession” that his victims were in fact victims is of sufficient importance to warrant giving him special treatment. Our justice system is predicated on the fundamental value that no individual is above the law, and to that end, it is essential that plea agreements involving well-connected individuals not only follow the law and standard practice, but also stand up under scrutiny. 

While the legality of the non-prosecution agreement and the horrifying treatment of Mr. Epstein’s victims are both matters subject to ongoing litigation, the judicial process must not be a substitute for oversight by Congress and the Executive Branch. We ask that you examine the circumstances and substance of this agreement to ensure compliance with all applicable DOJ rules and regulations and that you provide answers to the following questions: 

  1. The plea agreement grants immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” who were also involved in Mr. Epstein’s crimes. Is it consistent with the practice and policy of the Department of Justice to enter into plea agreements that provide a blanket immunity to unnamed, potentially-nonexistent unindicted co-conspirators?
    Does the United States Attorney of jurisdiction retain sole authority to approve such provisions or is approval required from the Attorney General of the United States or any other senior DOJ official?
    In this case, was Mr. Acosta the individual ultimately tasked with approving the terms of the agreement, including the immunity provisions?
  2. At the time of the agreement, was it consistent with federal law and DOJ policy for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to fail to notify the victims of Mr. Epstein’s crimes?
    Would such practice be consistent with current federal law and DOJ policy?
  3. It is also reported that Mr. Epstein was permitted to serve his extremely limited jail sentence not in state or federal prison, but rather in county jail, where he was permitted work release privileges that were not made available to other sex offenders. Did the non-prosecution agreement include stipulations as to the terms of Mr. Epstein’s physical confinement in Palm Beach County jail, including that he would be afforded work release or other perquisites not available to other individuals incarcerated for similar crimes? 

Thank you for your time, consideration, and attention to this important matter. We look forward to a prompt response.