(RNN) – Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta is under fire again for a plea deal for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, when Acosta was U.S. attorney in Miami.
Acosta was reportedly under consideration to become attorney general, CNN reported earlier this month. Matthew Whitaker has been serving as acting AG, appointed by President Donald Trump after Jeff Sessions was fired Nov. 7.
However, because of a Miami Herald report on the plea deal, he is now out of the running for the post.
Epstein - a multimillionaire financier who counted Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, among his friends - was accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls as far back as 2001 in what the Herald classified in its expose as a “large, cult-like network."
Sources close to the president told the Herald Acosta is out of the running for the AG position.
Acosta approved a non-prosecution agreement for Epstein, which allowed him to serve only 18 months in prison.
Epstein pleaded guilty to two state charges of prostitution solicitation. The terms of the deal prevent him and his associates from facing federal charges, the Miami Herald said, which could have sent him to jail for life. He was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to dozens of victims.
In addition, the Herald said Epstein served his time not in state prison but in a private wing of a Palm Beach County “stockade” and was allowed to perform “work release” in his downtown West Palm Beach office.
The agreement sealed the 53-page FBI indictment against Epstein “so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes,” the Miami Herald reported. The paper also alleged the prosecution allowed Epstein’s defense to dictate the terms of the plea deal.
Acosta defended the deal in 2017 during a Senate confirmation hearing after he was nominated for labor secretary, CNN reported.
“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decide that a plea - that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally and that guarantees other outcomes - is a good thing,” he said.
Epstein’s victims said the deal was done without their knowledge or consent. Some of his victims – who were teens at the time of the abuse - are suing the federal government.
Epstein’s legal team included Alan Dershowitz, who was one of O.J. Simpson’s defense attorneys, and Kenneth Starr, independent counsel during the Clinton administration and former Baylor University chancellor.
One of the alleged teen victims said Epstein made her have sex with Dershowitz and Prince Andrew. Both denied the claims, which spurred suits and countersuits.
Questions about the lenient sentencing of sex offenders has been a key part of the #MeToo movement.
This year, California voters recalled Aaron Persky, a judge in the Brock Turner sexual assault case. In 2015, Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman.