Democrats call for full probe of US Justice Department's Epstein deal

Miami (tca/dpa) - Democratic members of Congress requested Friday that US Attorney General William Barr order an investigation into his own department's handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case, focusing on the deal Epstein received to escape meaningful punishment 10 years ago.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Barr on Friday saying that the department's ongoing inspector general investigation should not limit itself to how the multimillionaire financier was able to wind up dead in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial.

"Limiting the scope of an independent inquiry solely into his death is grossly inadequate, and would ignore the various DOJ officials who have allowed this serial pedophile to escape true justice for more than a decade," said the letter, signed by Florida Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Ted Deutch as well as Representatives Jackie Speier of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
The main Justice Department official referenced in the letter is Alexander Acosta, who was US attorney for the Southern District of Florida when Epstein was first investigated on allegations of sexually trafficking dozens of underage girls at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach.
After preparing a 53-page draft indictment that could have put away Epstein for life, Acosta shelved the charges, allowing Epstein to plead to relatively minor charges in state court in Palm Beach County and serve a short jail term.
Acosta, who was named secretary of labor after President Donald Trump's election in 2016, resigned the post in July amid criticism that followed a Miami Herald investigation of his role in Epstein's plea deal.
Acosta not only approved the unusual deal with Epstein, but also went along with the demands Epstein's powerful legal team that victims not be informed of the plea arrangement. A federal judge recently ruled that the secrecy violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
Following years of freedom, Epstein was arrested early last month after the US attorney for the Southern District of New York revived the case and issued a fresh indictment.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his jail cell weeks later, the victim of a hanging. The death has been ruled a suicide.
"Mr Epstein's victims have been denied justice at every turn so far," said the letter. "They must be granted this dignity, while some measure of true accountability is still within reach."

Sunday, September 1st 2019
By Julie K Brown, Miami Herald

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