On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.
It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.
His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.
The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.
Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims.
He comes with cash to burn, a fleet of airplanes, and a keen eye for the ladies -- to say nothing of a relentless brain that challenges Nobel Prize–winning scientists across the country -- and for financial markets around the world. Ever since the Post's "Page Six" ran an item about the president's late-September visit to Africa with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker -- on his new benefactor's customized Boeing 727 -- the question of the day has been: Who in the world is Jeffrey Epstein?
It's a life full of question marks. Epstein is said to run $15 billion for wealthy clients, yet aside from Limited founder Leslie Wexner, his client list is a closely held secret.
Epstein likes to tell people that he's a loner, a man who's never touched alcohol or drugs, and one whose nightlife is far from energetic. And yet if you talk to Donald Trump, a different Epstein emerges. "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,'' Trump booms from a speakerphone. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it -- Jeffrey enjoys his social life."
But beautiful women are only a part of it. Because here's the thing about Epstein: As some collect butterflies, he collects beautiful minds. "I invest in people -- be it politics or science. It's what I do," he has said to friends. And his latest prize addition is the former president. In his eyes, Clinton as a species represents the highest evolutionary form of the political animal. As he put it to a friend upon his return from Africa, "If you were a boxer at the downtown gymnasium at 14th Street and Mike Tyson walked in, your face would have the same look as these foreign leaders had when Clinton entered the room. He is the world's greatest politician."
A trial that could have allowed the victims of serial molester Jeffrey Epstein to finally tell their stories from a witness stand was aborted Tuesday when it was announced in court that the case had been settled.
It ended with an apology — not to the dozens of women who were sexually abused by Epstein as underage girls, but to the lawyer who represented them.
The lawyer who took Epstein to court, Bradley Edwards, said he remains determined to give the women, now in their late 20s and early 30s, their day in court.
That opportunity could come in separate litigation that seeks to undo a controversial non-prosecution agreement that was negotiated in secret 10 years ago between the Palm Beach multimillionaire’s lawyers and the U.S. attorney for South Florida, Alex Acosta.
A federal court of appeals in New York on Monday took the first step in unsealing documents that could reveal evidence of an international sex trafficking operation allegedly run by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein and his former partner, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
The three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit gave the parties until March 19 to establish good cause as to why they should remain sealed and, failing to do so, the summary judgment and supporting documents will be made public. The court reserved a ruling on the balance of the documents in the civil case, including discovery materials.
“We’re grateful that the court ruled the summary judgment papers are open and they are moving to expedite having them unsealed,’’ said Sanford Bohrer, the attorney representing the Miami Herald, which filed the motion last year to have the entire case file opened. The Herald’s appeal is supported by 32 other media companies, including the New York Times and Washington Post.