The U.S. Department of Justice announced Feb. 6 that it has opened an investigation into a 2007 plea deal that allowed New York billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to serve only 13 months in a Florida jail while being accused of molesting more than 100 underage girls, some of them just 14 years old.
In a letter to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd said an internal investigation is underway to examine whether DOJ attorneys committed “professional misconduct.”
“The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has now opened an investigation into allegations that Department attorneys may have committed professional misconduct in the manner in which the Epstein criminal matter was resolved,” Boyd wrote.
Boyd was responding to two separate letters Sasse sent to the department regarding the Epstein matter—one on Dec. 3, and another Jan. 14. On Jan. 15, Sasse pressed President Donald Trump’s U.S. attorney general nominee, William Barr, for a commitment to investigate the plea deal.
“If I’m confirmed, I’ll make sure your questions are answered,” Barr said during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Barr has yet to be confirmed, but momentum on the case already appears to be building. On the afternoon of Feb. 6, Sasse issued a statement in response to Boyd’s letter.
“Jeffrey Epstein is a child rapist and there’s not a single mom or dad in America who shouldn’t be horrified by the fact that he received a pathetically soft sentence,” said Sasse.
“The victims of Epstein’s child sex-trafficking ring deserve this investigation—and so do the American people and the members of law enforcement who work to put these kinds of monsters behind bars.”
‘Perversion of Justice’
Epstein, a former hedge fund manager, now 66, allegedly operated an international child sex ring at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion and 72-acre private island estate in the Caribbean.
He reportedly used human-trafficking recruiters to coerce young girls into his orbit, only to perform sex acts with them, along with many of his Palm Beach and island guests.
The girls were often transported from the United States to his island estate on his private jet, dubbed the “Lolita Express” in the media.
Boyd’s letter, along with Sasse’s questioning of Barr, referenced the Miami Herald’s three-part investigative series, “Perversion of Justice,” which delved into Epstein’s alleged crimes and the DOJ’s subsequent “sweetheart” plea deal, which the newspaper called “the deal of a lifetime.”
Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness, the Herald reported.
“We were stupid, poor children,’’ said one anonymous woman who had never told anyone about Epstein. She was 14 and a high school freshman when he first abused her. “We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row.”
Courtney Wild, who was also 14 when she first met Epstein, became a young recruiter.
“He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,” Wild said.
She explained that Epstein was well aware of how young the girls were, “because he demanded they be young.”
“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,’’ she said, explaining that Epstein would get angry if she couldn’t find him young girls.
“If I had a girl to bring him at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then that’s how many times I would go a day. He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough,’’ she said.
The Herald, along with civil court documents, revealed that Epstein’s many guests included entertainers, politicians, business magnates, and even royalty. Among them was President Bill Clinton.
According to court documents obtained by Fox News in 2016, subpoenaed flight logs show Clinton, a longtime Epstein associate, took at least 26 trips aboard Epstein’s jet. Clinton reportedly traveled without his Secret Service detail on many of those occasions.
The Deal of a Lifetime
Facing life in prison if convicted on human trafficking charges, Epstein assembled an elite team of lawyers, perhaps rivaling O.J. Simpson’s 1995 so-called “dream team.”
The attorneys included Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jay Lefkowitz, Gerald Lefcourt, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, Guy Lewis, and former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who investigated Bill Clinton’s infamous affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski.
Despite a mountain of evidence and witnesses, federal prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers arranged an extremely lenient deal.
Epstein, then 54, pleaded guilty to only two felony prostitution charges in state court, rather than federal court, and served only 13 months in a private section of the Palm Beach County jail.
Per the agreement, Epstein was allowed to maintain that he was unaware that any of the girls he molested were under age 18. The deal also provided a work release arrangement allowing Epstein to leave the jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
He was reportedly being picked up by his private driver on those days, and transported to his downtown West Palm Beach office, where he logged unsupervised work release hours.
The deal, called a federal prosecution agreement, was also sealed. As a result, information relating to Epstein’s alleged crimes, the people who participated in them and details of the plea negotiations are still unknown.
Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time of the highly unusual plea arrangement. Court records and emails obtained by the Miami Herald show that Acosta was personally involved.
A Labor Department spokesperson said in a statement that Acosta “welcomes the OPR’s additional review of this matter.”
Conflict of Interest
Those hoping for accountability still may face a number of challenges. Boyd’s Feb. 6 letter indicates that the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting the investigation.
The OPR functions similarly to a police department’s internal affairs division, but is notoriously secretive. Unlike the DOJ Inspector General, who could have handled the investigation if allowed, OPR internal probes rarely become public.
Sasse alluded to resistance within the department when he questioned Barr on Jan. 15.
“Those of us who have been pressing on this matter have found in different parts of the Department a lot of anxiety about the way this was handled … and a bunch of people who think they are not responsible,” said Sasse.