In 2008, then-U.S. Attorney for the Miami district Alex Acosta helped financier Jeffrey Epstein secure a sweetheart deal that allowed him to dodge federal charges related to his years of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. In an appalling miscarriage of justice, the deal allowed by Mr. Acosta failed to involve or even notify the victims of Mr. Epstein about the plea deal. Adding further injury to the victims, Mr. Acosta allowed for the most minimal punishment for Mr. Epstein.
With Mr. Epstein’s arrest on charges of sex trafficking on July 6th, it is now clear there were many more victims in more than one city, and that Mr. Acosta and the criminal justice system let those victims down. Powerful men have long had their abhorrent behavior protected, if not rewarded, as illustrated by Mr. Acosta’s current position as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. As the details of Mr. Epstein’s current indictment become public, there is no question that Mr. Acosta’s decision to shield Mr. Epstein from federal charges was not only misguided and irresponsible, but prevented the survivors of Mr. Epstein’s abuse from seeking justice.
Because we believe our criminal justice system should place itself in a position to offer protection and hope to victims, especially children, and because Mr. Acosta has lost all credibility of reasonable judgment, this week, ECPAT-USA sent the following letter to President Trump calling for the firing of Mr. Acosta:
Dear President Trump:
As Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, the nation’s leader in eradicating child exploitation and human trafficking, I urge on you to remove Mr. Alex Acosta from his position as Secretary of Labor.
In 2008, then-U.S. Attorney Acosta agreed to shield Jeffrey Epstein from federal charges of child exploitation and allowed him to plead guilty to lesser state charges. That appalling decision by Mr. Acosta was terribly misguided and incredibly irresponsible. With the recent indictment, and many more children victimized by Mr. Epstein, the question of Mr. Acosta’s judgment is irrecoverably flawed.
While the U.S. has enacted good laws to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, these laws are only as strong as the criminal justice system that enforces them. The Epstein case, in which this serial child abuser and trafficker was given a shockingly lenient deal is an extraordinary example of the system failing our children.
Child sexual abuse and exploitation have a terrible long-term impact on victims. Besides the immediate physical harm, a child’s social and psychological development can be severely affected. Among the other consequences of this horrific crime, they learn there is no one to turn to for protection. They learn their lives are not valued. When the criminal justice system, which is there to protect them, reinforces this message, it is beyond devastating for victims.
As Americans we like to think that our criminal justice system will place itself in a position to offer protection and hope to victims, especially our children. For these reasons ECPAT-USA calls on you to take the strongest action as president to protect our children by removing Mr. Acosta from his position. This will serve as a powerful gesture to our children that they are important to us.
We are confident that your administration understands that this is the proper response to the recent indictment of Mr. Epstein and that you agree with us and all Americans that our children, especially those who fall prey to traffickers like Mr. Epstein, are owed nothing less.
Carol Smolenski, Executive Director, ECPAT-USA
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