The Department of Justice held a meeting with victims of Jeffrey Epstein on Thursday to give them a first look at an investigative report into the financier’s secret 2007 plea deal. In the report, the feds determined Miami federal prosecutors didn’t commit “professional misconduct” when they declined to prosecute Epstein.
About 30 victims and their lawyers met at the FBI’s office in Miramar, Florida, for a three-hour briefing on the DOJ’s probe into the controversial nonprosecution agreement that shielded Epstein’s accomplices from a federal indictment in Florida.
Jack Scarola, a lawyer for Epstein victims, told The Daily Beast the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigated five federal prosecutors in the probe and found none violated the law or department regulation or policy. The only named official, however, was former U.S Attorney Alex Acosta.
The 300-page report—which resulted from 60 interviews, only five of which were conducted under oath—will be released to two U.S. senators.
“The review standard that OPR applies is limited to a determination as to whether any clearly established law, rule, regulation or policy was intentionally or reckless violated,” Scarola said. “The conclusion of the investigation that focused on five federal prosecutors was that none of the federal prosecutors committed acts that met that standard.”
“Acosta did not commit violations but he made what were described as serious errors of judgment,” Scarola added.
Longtime victims’ lawyers Paul Cassell and Brad Edwards called the OPR report “an attempt to whitewash” the DOJ’s mishandling of the Epstein case.
“The OPR report is an attempt to whitewash serious misconduct by the Justice Department,” the attorneys said in a statement. “It also appears to be based on incomplete information, such as missing emails from the relevant period of time. We hope that the full report will be released rapidly so the public can make its own judgment about what really happened.”
Sigrid McCawley, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner who represents multiple survivors of Epstein’s sex ring, said the report falls short in holding the government accountable for Epstein’s lenient treatment. “The countless number of women whose lives were devastated by Jeffrey Epstein deserve something more than a government-issued report that says Alex Acosta, as the lead prosecutor at the time, showed ‘poor judgment’ in handling Epstein's criminal investigation,” McCawley said. “This is an anemic accounting of what really happened, and it scans like a relic of a painful past we have left behind. Then and now, the victims deserve action, change and accountability.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, also issued a statement demanding that the full DOJ report be released to the public: “Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’—it is a disgusting failure. Americans ought to be enraged. Jeffrey Epstein should be rotting behind bars today, but the Justice Department failed Epstein’s victims at every turn. The DOJ’s crooked deal with Epstein effectively shut down investigations into his child sex trafficking ring and protected his co-conspirators in other states. Justice has not been served.”
Scarola said OPR’s probe included under-oath questioning with five federal prosecutors involved in the deal, as well as a review of 800,000 documents. Those documents included emails, though Scarola added, “There was a substantial gap in the production of Alex Acosta’s emails.”
Survivors and their attorneys did learn, however, that OPR determined federal prosecutors’ decision to grant immunity to Epstein’s alleged accomplices—which include Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff and Nadia Marcinkova—was highly unusual.
“The only statement that I found to be of great significance was an acknowledgment that the provisions in the NPA that granted immunity to Epstein’s named and unnamed co-conspirators … were not only unusual but acknowledged to be unique,” Scarola said.
“Never had a non-prosecution agreement been negotiated before that included those kinds of immunity provisions.”
According to Scarola, the DOJ’s position is that the NPA’s immunity provisions only apply to the Southern District of Florida.
Asked how victims and their counsel felt about the meeting, Scarola said, “It is obviously an effort on the part of the Department of Justice to be more transparent with the Epstein victims, to recognize the primacy of their interest in being informed as to what has gone on and to give them a first look at the results of this investigation.
“From that perspective, it was an acknowledgement that lessons have been learned on the mistakes that were made in connection with the Epstein investigation,” Scarola said, referring to the feds’ 2007 probe into Epstein’s sex crimes.
Scarola said the meeting didn’t address questions on broad prosecutorial discretion—in other words, the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office’s decision not to indict a wealthy man accused of molesting and raping dozens of underage girls.
“Why was prosecutorial discretion exercised in the manner in which it was, when this was an extremely strong case against a serial child abuser?” Scarola said. “Those questions weren’t addressed in those reports. Those questions need to be addressed. We need to know not only why there was a failure or abuse of prosecutorial discretion, but at the state level as well.”
The Department of Justice released a statement of its own following the meeting, as well as a 13-page summary of OPR’s report.
“While OPR did not find that Department attorneys engaged in professional misconduct, OPR concluded that the victims were not treated with the forthrightness and sensitivity expected by the Department,” the statement read.
“OPR also concluded that former U.S. Attorney Acosta exercised poor judgment by deciding to resolve the federal investigation through the non-prosecution agreement and when he failed to make certain that the state of Florida intended to and would notify victims identified through the federal investigation about the state plea hearing.”
The DOJ said privacy laws prevent the agency from releasing the report in its entirety but that the report is available upon request to a congressional committee.
“We salute the courage of survivors as they again are confronted with these horrible crimes and their aftermath,” the statement concluded. “The Department will thoroughly review the report, which will inform our implementation of the Crime Victims Rights’ Act and the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Victim and Witness Assistance.”
As an executive summary of the OPR report notes, Palm Beach cops began investigating Epstein in 2005, after receiving a complaint from the parents of a 14-year-old girl who was brought to his mansion for “massage” work.
In July 2006, the state attorney’s office charged Epstein with felony solicitation of prostitution. The police chief and lead detective, believing the state grand jury charge “did not address the totality of Epstein’s conduct,” referred the case to the FBI.
In May 2007, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Acosta’s office submitted a draft 60-count indictment against Epstein. But following meetings with Epstein’s legal team, federal prosecutors dropped their investigation in return for Epstein agreeing to plead guilty to a pair of state charges, register as a sex offender, serve 18 months in jail, and pay damages to the victims through civil suits.
Victims didn’t learn about Epstein’s plea deal until after it was signed.
The OPR summary noted the office “found no clear and unambiguous standard that required Acosta to indict Epstein on federal charges or that prohibited his decision to defer prosecution to the state. Furthermore, none of the individual terms of the NPA violated Department or other applicable standards.”
“Acosta’s decision to decline to initiate a federal prosecution of Epstein was within the scope of his authority, and OPR did not find evidence that his decision was based on corruption or other impermissible considerations, such as Epstein’s wealth, status, or associations,” the report continued.