It’s time for Acosta to go


Miami Herald: If Alexander Acosta had done in South Florida what Geoffrey Berman just did in New York, Jeffrey Epstein, a sexual predator, might already be behind bars for the rest of his life instead of serving only 13 months.

If Acosta, when he was U.S. attorney in Miami, had shown an ounce of sympathy for the vulnerable girls Epstein sexually exploited, they would have had a powerful voice on their side. They didn’t. Now, Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is their next best hope for justice.

If Acosta had not shown himself to be ethically challenged 10 years ago, we wouldn’t be calling for his resignation as U.S. secretary of Labor now. But we are – again.

Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday at a New Jersey airport upon his return from Paris. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged him with sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy. He faces a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted.

Back in 2008, Acosta had the chance to prosecute Epstein for luring dozens of troubled girls to his Palm Beach estate on the pretense of giving him massages – before he escalated things to sex acts. He also used those girls to recruit others.

STOMACH-TURNING ALLEGATIONS

The stomach-turning allegations should have been enough to haul Epstein before judge and jury. Instead, Acosta agreed to a benevolent nonprosecution deal, aggressively pushed by Epstein’s powerhouse attorneys. Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution, paid a fine, registered as a sexual predator and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence. No federal charges were filed.

Acosta now is U.S. labor secretary. However, Epstein’s victims, many of whom are struggling to get past the abuse they suffered, are still waiting for their own day in court. In 2008, Acosta shut them out of the process, failing to even inform them of his lenient plea deal with Epstein.

As evidence grows against Epstein, through both the Herald’s pit-bull reporting and because a U.S. attorney is committed to seeing justice done, it is evidence, too, that not only did Acosta fail to get it right in 2008, he didn’t care to.

He has to go.

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