Sen. Ben Sasse Urges William Barr To ‘Rip Up’ Deal That Let Epstein Co-conspirators Off
Sen. Ben Sasse, the Nebraska Republican who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s judicial oversight subcommittee, is urging Attorney General William Barr to nullify the highly controversial plea deal that allowed disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to skirt federal charges and let any possible co-conspirators off the hook.
Epstein apparently died by suicide early Saturday while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges in a high-security Manhattan prison facility, but officials believe there may be others who knew of or participated in his alleged illegal activities.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the attorney general’s office, Sasse wrote that “the notion that one individual’s plea could shield a whole class of potential co-conspirators of uncertain size and identity from legal liability would — if treated as enforceable — pioneer a new model for one fall guy to shield all other members of a criminal enterprise from accountability to the law.”
“[T]he Department of Justice should rip up the non-prosecution, non-investigation agreement” Epstein signed with then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s blessing in 2008, Sasse wrote.
A trove of documents released on Friday provided upsetting details of abuse allegedly perpetrated by Epstein and his longtime associate, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was involved in a defamation suit with one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre.
More than a decade ago, an FBI investigation returned a 53-page indictment against Epstein for abusing underage girls. Instead of taking the case to federal court, however, Epstein’s lawyers negotiated a plea deal with Acosta that required their client to plead guilty to state child prostitution charges. It led to a 13-month, slap-on-the-wrist jail sentence.
The deal offered immunity to Epstein and “any potential co-conspirators” from federal charges in the Southern District of Florida.
During his sentence, the wealthy prisoner was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail and permitted to leave up to 12 hours per day on a work permit, six days a week. A lawyer for his accusers has claimed that Epstein continued to abuse girls during the permissive jail sentence.
Details of the plea became public in November with a series of articles in The Miami Herald. Critics lambasted Acosta, who had since been chosen as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, for signing off on such a lax agreement. Epstein’s July 6 arrest on suspicion of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in New York and elsewhere prompted a new wave of calls for Acosta to step down, which he did the following week.
Epstein was being held without bail due to his status as a flight risk and the danger prosecutors say he posed to the general public.
His death has prompted a slew of questions from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Sasse has made sure his voice is heard in the controversy. On Saturday, he told Barr that “[o]bviously, heads must roll” over the incident.
Epstein was known for the high-profile company he liked to keep, having socialized with renowned scientists, wealthy business leaders including Trump, former President Bill Clinton and other heads of state.
Multiple investigations into how Epstein was apparently left unsupervised long enough to kill himself are underway at the FBI, the New York medical examiner’s office and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office.
Although Epstein was placed on suicide watch last month, he was reportedly taken off it prior to his death. Reports indicate that staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Center ― the fortress-like building where the likes of Bernie Madoff and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán have been held ― were overworked at the time.
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