Before becoming Trump’s labor secretary, top Miami prosecutor Alexander Acosta worked with the lawyers of Jeffrey Epstein—a now-disgraced hedge fund manager whose been accused by dozens of underage girls of sexual abuse and sex trafficking—to “contain” the case he was supposed to be prosecuting, according to a Wednesday report from the Miami Herald. Although Acosta insisted that he pursued a harsh plea deal with Epstein’s lawyers, the resulting sweetheart deal smothered the FBI’s investigation and forced Acosta to spend only 13 months in jail. Records cited by the Herald show that Acosta did not seek a harsh sentence—instead, he repeatedly caved to lawyers’ demands and even worked with Epstein’s legal team to limit the scope of the FBI’s investigation.
Emails between Acosta and Epstein’s legal team show, the Herald notes, that “prosecutors spent a lot of time figuring out a way to settle the case with the least amount of scandal” instead of fighting for dozens of victims. Both parties agreed, for example, to allow Epstein to plea privately to avoid media coverage and to not inform any of his victims of the proceedings. They also spoke frequently over the phone to avoid a paper trail—a detail which alarmed one former prosecutor. “It’s highly unusual and raises suspicions of something unethical happening when you see emails that say ‘call me, I don’t want to put this in writing,’” he told the Herald. “There’s no reason to worry about putting something in writing if there’s nothing improper or unethical in the case.’’