Senate Democrats on Friday signaled their intent to grill Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta of Miami next week over his handling of a plea agreement given to a billionaire sex offender while Acosta served as south Florida’s top U.S. prosecutor.
Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, made a formal request to review “all documents and communications” in the case involving Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein was accused of paying dozens of girls cash to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse in his mansions in Palm Beach, New York City and the U.S. Virgin Islands between 1999 and 2005.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Murray said senators needed the information on the Epstein case as part of their responsibility to “fully vet” all of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointees.
Murray declined to be interviewed, and her spokesman said she had no further comment on the letter.
Murray’s request all but assures the issue will come up during Acosta’s confirmation hearing, set for Wednesday. Murray helped derail Trump’s first labor nominee, fast-food executive Andy Puzder, who withdrew his nomination last month after he admitted that he had hired a housekeeper who was in the U.S. illegally.
According to the Miami Herald, Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting minors for prostitution. He registered as a sex offender in Florida and agreed to pay damages to 40 female victims ranging in age from 13 to 17. As part of the plea agreement negotiated by Acosta’s office, Epstein wouldn’t be charged in federal court, even though the feds had drawn up a proposed 53-page indictment that carried potential punishment ranging from a mandatory 10 years in prison up to a life sentence.
Epstein ended up serving just over a year in the Palm Beach County Stockade. During his incarceration, local authorities allowed him to go to work or do whatever he wanted for six days out of every week.
Acosta’s “non-prosecution agreement” was signed by the billionaire and his lawyers in September 2007 and amended through the end of that year. The deal also immunized several of his co-conspirators from federal prosecution.
Acosta, 48, is the dean of Florida International University’s law school.
While he has been confirmed by the Senate for three different jobs, he has never been questioned about decisions he made during his four years as U.S. attorney.