MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Under fire for his role in the Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse scandal in 2008, then-U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida and current Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta has resigned.
Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola who represents some of Epstein’s accusers reacted by saying, “Mr. Acosta will now have plenty of time and no distractions
that prevent him from fully accounting for the sweetheart treatment Epstein received.”
In recent days there had been increased calls from Democrats to resign for his handling of a controversial secret plea deal for Epstein.
Under terms of the deal, the financier pleaded guilty to state charges, not federal charges, of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months in jail.
During that time, he was also allowed to leave jail six days a week for 12 hours a day to work out of his office.
On Friday, President Donald Trump stood shoulder to shoulder with Acosta and defended his actions.
“He made a deal that people were happy with and 12 years later they are not happy with it, you’ll have to figure that out. But the fact is he has been a fantastic Secretary of Labor,” said Trump.
The president said Acosta called him this morning and asked to see him.
“I just wanted to let you know, this was him, not me because I’m with him. He’s a tremendous talent, he’s a Hispanic man, he went to Harvard, a great student, and in so many ways I just hate what he is saying now because we are going to miss him,” said Trump.
WATCH: PRESIDENT TRUMP AND ALEX ACOSTA ANNOUNCE RESIGNATION
Acosta said in the last few weeks, the labor departments accomplishments have been overshadowed by his role in the Epstein case.
“In the last weeks, I’ve seen a lot of coverage of the Department of Labor. And what I have not seen is the incredible job creation that we’ve seen in this economy, more than five million jobs. I haven’t seen that workplace injuries are down, bucking a three-year trend. Workplace fatalities are down, bucking a three-year trend. The safest year ever in mining. I have seen coverage of this case, that is over 12 years old, that had input and vetting at multiple levels of the Department of Justice,” said Acosta.
“As I look forward I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today. So I called the president this morning, I told him I thought the right thing was to step aside,” he added.
The Miami Herald exposed the Epstein deal and gave a voice to dozens of women who say they were lured into a sex trafficking ring and molested by Epstein when they were young girls.
Their voices hadn’t been heard and they hadn’t been consulted about the plea agreement
Herald Managing Editor Rick Hirsch says his reporting team will be uncovering more unanswered questions as additional victims come forward and tell their stories.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Acosta said he defended the decisions his office made in 2008.
“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.
An investigator who worked on the case told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald the evidence supporting the girls’ stories was overwhelming.”
“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.
When asked if he thought he did everything he could, Acosta replied, “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.”
Acosta said he and Epstein’s attorneys agreed 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 because there were concerns that if negotiations fell through, Epstein’s counsel could use the prospect of restitution to question their credibility.
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 read: “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.”
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.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Brad Edwards says several South Florida accusers have contacted him.
“He says Acosta’s resignation was not their request. It actually does nothing for them.”
All they want is an in-person meeting where he will provide full and complete answers to their questions.