Just five years after Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta brokered a controversial plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein, I sat in a federal courtroom with 11 other jurors listening to sordid details about a sex offender who raped a young girl. Our case did not involve an uber-wealthy, super-connected elite defendant but rather a run-of-the-mill working-class pervert. The feds charged him with child pornography, a charge that carried a penalty of up to 15 years in jail, and we convicted him. As with Mr. Acosta, the federal prosecutors in our case were faced with a potentially weak state prosecution of the child rape charges. Only in our case, the feds aggressively pursued child pornography charges against the perpetrator.
According to Palm Beach police, child pornography was evident in the Epstein case in 2008. Mr. Acosta and company apparently chose to ignore it. The result is the child rapist convicted in our case was sitting in a jail cell even as Mr. Epstein allegedly continued to jet-set around procuring and raping young girls.
Linda Foley, Potomac
The July 11 editorial “Justice delayed” buried the lead. The closing paragraph acknowledged the possibility that “everything that [Alexander] Acosta said is true.” Yet it gave the difficult realities of prosecuting sex trafficking cases 10 years ago short shrift. From my experience, these cases always rise or fall on witness credibility. And attacking young, vulnerable victims was always the first card played by defense counsel. Mr. Acosta, then a U.S. attorney in Florida and now labor secretary, aptly described the risk of going to trial on such testimony as a roll of the dice. That is the nature of our jury system.
Perhaps more relevant here is how much justice a defendant can afford. Jeffrey Epstein bought the best. One has only to look at his sentencing photograph in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., in which he is accompanied by Guy Lewis, Mr. Acosta’s predecessor as U.S. attorney.
Should a harsher penalty have been sought? Probably. But as the man in the arena, Mr. Acosta did the best he could under conditions not present in the new prosecution, and his prosecutorial career should not be judged solely on this very difficult case.
Scott Ray, Bethesda
The writer was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida under Alexander Acosta.