By Hank Tester


WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — Hours after US Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta defended his actions regarding the handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case, former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer said in a statement that Alex Acosta is “completely wrong.”

“Mr. Acosta’s should not be allowed to rewrite history,” Krischer said.

Part of his statement red: “If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the state’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted. Instead, Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a Non-Prosecution Agreement.”

Acosta made a statement Wednesday afternoon and answered reporters questions.

Acosta, a former federal prosecutor in South Florida, is under fire for his role in a secret 2008 plea deal that let Epstein avoid federal prosecution after allegations he molested teenage girls.

“Simply put, the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing. Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable,” he said.

“I know that my former colleagues, the men and women of my office, wanted to help [Jeffrey Epstein’s victims]. I wanted to help them. That is why we intervened, Epstein’s actions absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence,” he added.

Read: South Florida Wealthy Financier Jeffrey Epstein’s Accusers Want New Charges Filed In Florida

Epstein was given a 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail and go to work six days a week.

Acosta was asked at the Wednesday news conference if he thought he did everything he could.

“We believe that we proceeded appropriately. That based on the evidence, and not just my opinion but I’ve shared the affidavit, but based on the evidence there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register,” he replied.

President Donald Trump has praised Acosta’s work in his Cabinet and said he feels “very badly” for him, but said he’ll be looking “very closely” at the matter.

The White House has defended Acosta over his handling of the plea deal which he was a US Attorney in Miami.

“The defense attorneys in the case actually tried to get Alex removed because they thought he was such an aggressive prosecutor in this case,” said Marc Short, Chief of Staff for Vice President Pence.

Acosta made an agreement with Epstein’s attorneys to keep the plea deal secret from the victims. He said the prosecution didn’t want to share with the victims that there were efforts to gain restitution for them from Epstein.

WATCH ALEX ACOSTA’S ENTIRE NEWS CONFERENCE HERE

 

Acosta said there concerns that if negotiations fell through, Epstein’s counsel could use the prospect of restitution to question their credibility.

Acosta says, “In our heart we were trying to do the right thing for these victims.”

The decision to keep the plea deal secret was ruled illegal this year by a Florida judge.

Esptein’s attorney in the agreement, Alan Dershowitz, defended the plea deal saying the federal government didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute his client.

“For them, it was not a bad deal. They got him to be a registered sex offender, to pay vast amounts of money to all the women, and to get him to plead and go to jail, and expose him for the world to see as a sex offender. I think the feds thought it was the best they could do,” said Dershowitz.

But an investigator who worked on the case told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald the evidence supporting the girls’ stories was overwhelming.”

On Monday, Epstein pleaded not guilty to new child sex-trafficking charges in New York and could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said a raid of his home also turned up hundreds of lewd photos.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, have invited Acosta to testify at a public hearing on July 23rd.

“Secretary Acosta has a disturbing record on sexual and human trafficking that stretches from the horribly permissive plea agreement he gave to Jeffrey Epstein, up to his time now as Labor Secretary. I’ve been insistent that he publicly answer for these troubling actions, and I am heartened that Chairmen Cummings and Raskin have called for this public accounting. Countless victims deserve nothing less,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement.

Schultz also sent a letter to Acosta asking him to rescind a Labor Department visa policy directive that would stymie anti-trafficking efforts.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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