Sen. Tim Kaine on Tuesday blasted the 2008 plea deal that Labor Secretary Alex Acosta – then the US attorney in Miami – helped secure for multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, calling it “a sweetheart deal” that allowed Epstein to continue engaging in illegal behavior.
The 2008 non-prosecution deal that Acosta oversaw allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two state prostitution charges and serve just 13 months in prison despite a federal investigation identifying 36 underage abuse victims. The deal has come under renewed scrutiny after Epstein was charged Monday with having allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring in which he allegedly sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
“The deal that Secretary Acosta cut was illegal, it was secret and they hid it from the victims,” the Virginia Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”
“It was a sweetheart deal and in some ways, Jake, the thing that makes me the maddest is when Secretary Acosta let Epstein plead guilty to prostitution, these girls weren’t prostitutes. They were middle schoolers who were sex trafficking victims and allowing him to plead guilty to prostitution is like salt in the wound.”
Kaine added: “It is revictimizing the people to label them as a prostitution crime when that is not what it was.”
Amid calls from top Democrats for Acosta to resign from his position, the Labor secretary defended his handling of the case on Twitter Tuesday, stating he is happy “prosecutors are moving forward.”
“Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice,” Acosta wrote.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday told reporters that Acosta has been “excellent” in his role, adding only that the White House would be reviewing his handling of the 2008 case “very closely.”
Kaine, who asked Acosta about his handling of the case during his Senate confirmation hearing in 2017, reasoned Tuesday that Epstein’s wealth and status played a role in securing his prosecution deal.
“This guy was a big powerful and wealthy guy who got a different kind of justice than everybody else gets,” he said.
CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.