The indictment of financier Jeffrey Epstein for sex trafficking charges Monday unleashed fresh demands from Democrats for the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who helped Epstein secure a sweetheart plea deal for similar charges more than a decade ago.
New York prosecutors lodged new charges against the 66-year-old billionaire, accusing him of trafficking dozens of underage girls — some as young as 14 — between 2002 and 2005. Epstein used some of his victims to recruit others, according to the indictment.
Epstein was arrested on similar charges in 2007, but Mr. Acosta, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, arranged a plea deal that amounted to a slap on the wrist.
Epstein was facing life in prison for the charges, but Mr. Acosta engineered a plea deal that amounted to slap on the wrist.
Under the agreement, Epstein served 13 months in county jail and was offered immunity from future prosecution, essentially shuttering an FBI probe into whether there were more victims or co-conspirators.
The deal was offered without consultation with Epstein’s alleged victims, according to a Miami Herald investigation.
On Monday, Democrats and others said Mr. Acosta should pay a price for the light sentence.
“The new sex trafficking charges announced today make it agonizingly clear that former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta failed to deliver true justice for the underage girls that Jeffrey Epstein mercilessly exploited,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, said in a statement. “Someone with such poor judgment and utter disregard for survivors should not be our secretary of labor.
“As Epstein now faces a real accounting for his crimes, it’s time for Acosta to be held responsible for letting Epstein elude real justice for so long,” she said.
Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, also called for Mr. Acosta’s resignation.
“Labor Secretary @Secretary Acosta gave child molester Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal when Acosta was a US Attorney. Now it turns out Epstein may have molested more individuals. Why is Acosta still Labor Secretary? There is no cure for pedophilia,” Mr. Lieu tweeted.
In February, 19 House Democrats sent a letter to President Trump demanding Mr. Acosta’s resignation after a federal judge ruled the plea agreement violated federal law. The Democrats said the Epstein deal was “despicable” and “shows an utter disregard for the law and those he was charged with representing.”
Late Monday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests joined the cacophony of calls for Mr. Acosta’s departure.
“What matters is not when a powerful official helped a powerful predator. What matters is that a powerful official helped a powerful predator. And that official deserves to be demoted for his hurtful choices,” the group said in a statement.
“As head of the Labor Department, Acosta is in charge of monitoring sex trafficking. He simply can’t be effective in that role with a cloud like this over his head,” the statement continued.
A Department of Labor spokeswoman declined to comment on the resignation demands.