The Democrat-led House Committee on Oversight and Reform requested documents from federal prosecutors and Florida law enforcement officials on Friday as part of an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s secret plea deal.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters to U.S. Attorney General William Barr (pdf) and Richard Swearingen (pdf), the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, asking for “documents and information regarding the favorable deal for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and the concealment of the deal from the victims of Mr. Epstein’s crimes.”
The committee wants the documents by the first week of January 2020.
Epstein, a 66-year-old financier, and already-registered child sex offender was arrested on July 6 on new charges of sex trafficking underage girls. He was later found dead in his jail cell early Aug. 10 in what was deemed as an “apparent suicide.” While the medical examiner ruled his cause of death as suicide, some lawmakers and medical experts have said evidence suggests a homicide.
Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York on July 8 charged Epstein with child sex trafficking in a legal challenge to a previous agreement that took place more than a decade ago, dubbed the “sweetheart” plea deal of a lifetime.
Epstein’s lawyers argued in July that according to that plea deal, signed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) through the Southern District of Florida in 2008, Epstein is immune to any new charges for crimes committed during the same period.
Meanwhile, the DOJ on Feb. 6 announced an internal investigation of the plea deal in a strongly-worded statement. Later, a federal judge ruled on Feb. 21 that prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida broke the law when arranging the plea deal because they didn’t notify Epstein’s alleged victims during the plea negotiations; this violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
The plea deal, called a federal prosecution agreement, was made in 2008 after Epstein was accused in 2007 of operating an international child sex ring at his Palm Beach mansion and 72-acre private island estate in the Caribbean, Little St. James Island, and molesting more than 100 underage girls over eight years.
The deal saw Epstein avoid any substantial time behind bars, serving just 13 months in a private section of Florida’s Palm Beach County jail. Epstein, then 54, pleaded guilty to lesser state charges—only two felony prostitution charges in state court, rather than federal court. He also paid financial settlements to victims, registered as a sex offender, and gave undisclosed information to authorities.
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 that let Epstein leave jail for 12 hours each day, six days a week, and work unsupervised at his downtown West Palm Beach office.
The deal was also sealed, which means that information relating to Epstein’s alleged crimes, the people who participated in them, and specific details of the plea negotiations are still unknown.
Epstein’s 13-month sentence is believed to be one of the most lenient in U.S. history for a serial sex offender.
Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time of the plea deal. Court records and emails obtained by the Miami Herald show that Acosta was personally involved. Acosta resigned in July this year amid renewed scrutiny of the plea deal.
William Patrick and The Associated Press contributed to this report.