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Examining Acosta’s Claims on the Epstein Prosecution


“The prosecutors were saying, ‘These defense lawyers are going to go through your whole personal life, dig up your bad acts and your sex life. When they heard that from prosecutors, sure, they were intimidated,” Mr. Horowitz said. “They kept saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’”

Eventually, after years and under different circumstances, many of the victims did talk — to a Miami Herald reporter — telling the paper that they were dissatisfied with the efforts of Mr. Acosta’s office.

In a pool of victims so large, it is inevitable that some of them will resist going through to trial, said Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer for three of the victims. But two of his three clients gave depositions and were “willing and ready” to testify, he said.

What Mr. Acosta Said

“We believe that we proceeded appropriately, that based on the evidence and not just my opinion but I have shared the affidavit. Based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register.”

It is impossible to know how members of a jury might have responded to the evidence if it had been presented to them in a federal trial — or whether efforts by Mr. Epstein’s team to pressure the victims or intimidate prosecutors would have worked. But Mr. Acosta’s decision to accept a plea deal was widely — but not universally — supported by his own team at the time.

A. Marie Villafaña, the lead prosecutor in the case and one of the few women in Mr. Acosta’s leadership team, pushed him to bring charges even if it risked losing in court. She was eventually overruled, and helped Mr. Acosta work out the logistics of the plea deal.

What Mr. Acosta Said

“When it was finally clear that Epstein would comply with the agreement, she talks about how she made efforts to notify the victims, how that was a Friday afternoon at 4:15 and that she learned that the state had scheduled the plea for 8:30 the following Monday. And she talks about how over the weekend, she made every effort to notify the victims at that time.”

Mr. Acosta was referring to efforts by Ms. Villafaña to reach the victims. His office began directly negotiating a plea agreement with Mr. Epstein’s lawyers in August 2007, according to The Miami Herald. They reached an agreement on Sept. 24 of that year, but talks continued until June 2008, when Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in court.

From the time the F.B.I. began investigating Mr. Epstein in 2006 to Sept. 24, 2007, Mr. Acosta’s office “never conferred with the victims” or informed them that such an agreement was under consideration, a 2019 federal court ruling shows. The ruling notes that Mr. Epstein’s lawyers sought assurances that the victims would be kept in the dark.


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