Details of the failed arrest bid are revealed in a lengthy report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which investigated the secret 2008 plea deal that gave Epstein a minimal prison sentence and shielded him from federal sex crime charges.
The politically connected financier had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in his Florida mansion. He managed to evade most of the charges by pleading guilty to state charges involving a single victim.
The report found that the lead prosecutor in the Florida investigation, Marie Villafana, had “intended to file charges by May 15, 2007 and the FBI planned to arrest Epstein immediately thereafter. Villafana, however, had not obtained authorization to indict on the schedule.”
The document quotes one prosecutor saying the FBI had “wanted to arrest [Epstein] in [the] Virgin Islands during a beauty pageant … where he is a judge.”
“The case agent recalled that she and her co-case agent were disappointed” that they were denied the opportunity to make the arrest in May 2007 and an FBI supervisor overseeing the case was “extremely upset” about it, the report says.
Villafana was told she couldn’t file charges and nab Epstein at the beauty contest because Alex Acosta, then the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida, was away for a conference and he wanted “to take his time making sure he is comfortable before proceeding.”
The lead prosecutor said she “could not seem to get [her supervisors] to understand the seriousness of Epstein’s behavior and the fact that he was probably continuing to commit the behavior, and that there was a need to move with necessary speed.”
“I feel like there is a glass ceiling that prevents me from moving forward while evidence suggests that Epstein is continuing to engage in this criminal behavior,” she wrote in July 2007.
Just two months after Villafana had wanted to arrest Epstein, Acosta offered the financier the plea deal which wrapped up the investigation. Acosta later served as labor secretary during the Trump administration.
The sweetheart deal allowed the pedophile to escape with just 13 months behind bars. He was also allowed to leave the prison for 12 hours a day, six days a week as part of a work release program.
The Office of Professional Responsibility found in its report that it was within the scope of Acosta’s authority to “[make] the pivotal decision to resolve the federal investigation of Epstein through a state-based plea” and set the terms of the highly controversial deal.
Epstein served less than 13 months of his prison before being released on house arrest. He was arrested again in July 2019 on federal sex trafficking charges in Florida and New York. The disgraced businessman was found dead in a New York jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial. His death was officially ruled a suicide, and intense speculation has surrounded the circumstances.
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