Transcript for Acosta defends his role in 2008 Epstein plea deal
The latest now on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. As he faces new charges for trafficking minors, the white house is standing by labor secretary Alexander Acosta who signed off on a secret plea deal for Epstein as a prosecutor back in 2008. Acosta held a press conference to address the questions and Tom llamas was there. Good morning, Tom. Reporter: George, good morning to you. Secretary Acosta fiercely defended his actions but now the former top state prosecutor says Acosta is trying to rewrite history. This as some of Epstein's victims tell me they still don't understand why he got such a sweetheart deal. This morning, the white house signaling labor secretary Alexander Acosta will likely keep his job. The embattled Acosta defending his decision to offer Jeffrey Epstein a plea deal back in 2008. We were trying to do the right thing for these victims. Reporter: Many of the victims who said Epstein sexually assaulted them in massage rooms said they had no idea the government had cut a deal with the disgraced financier. They said they went to you looking for help and didn't hear back from you until it was too late. Do you owe them an apology? So, you're raising the issue of victim notification. The career prosecutor in this case had a difficult decision to make and she didn't make it Reporter: Acosta refusing to apologize. Simply put, the palm beach state attorney's office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing. Reporter: But now that former state attorney is firing back saying Mr. Acosta's recollection of this matter is completely wrong. The U.S. Attorney's office produced a 53-page indictment that was abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein's lawyers and Mr. Acosta. I'd like to respond to all your questions today, however, under the advice of counsel I intend to take the fifth. Reporter: He did go to county jail but for only 13 months and had to register as a sex offender. Court documents show more than 30 women accused him of sexually abusing them as teenagers. The deal he cut with Acosta's office allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge. The victims were never able to confront Epstein in court. I really just wanted to like be like, hey, do you remember me? Of course not because it's been so many other girls you couldn't even put on your hands like, oh, yeah, I remember that one. I ruined her life. Reporter: At the time Epstein formed a legal dream team to beat this case including former independent counsel Ken Starr, former O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Florida power attorney Roy black. Acosta has said in the past Epstein's lawyers appealed to the doj to drop the case. Did someone at doj tell you or order you to cut a deal with Jeffrey Epstein? His attorneys certain filed several appeals with main justice. The agreement did not change. Reporter: So the big question, why did Acosta keep this deal secret? He says part of the agreement with Epstein involved Epstein paying money to his victims. Now, prosecutors felt they were actually protecting those victims by keeping them in the dark because that way Epstein's attorneys couldn't attack them for instance for being money hungry but recently a judge ruled Acosta's office made the wrong call. They actually violated the victims' rights by not telling them what was going on. Thanks very much. Let's bring in Dan Abrams for more on this. You heard Acosta right there saying no apologies. This is basically the best he could do. Yeah, the three problems he has is number one is that court ruling that said that they violated the law by not informing the victims and that's a big one because he's not really addressing it. Basically saying the court got it wrong, fair enough. Number two he's not answering is what is the new evidence? He's talking about I'm thrilled the southern district of new York brought these charges because of the new evidence. You read the indictment from the southern district of New York and they're referring to incidents from 2002 to 2005. These don't sound like new incidents. They sound like old incidents that he could have prosecuted and number three is the issue you mention which is why not just say, you know what, yeah, in retrospect, we should have been a little tougher on him. In retrospect we shouldn't have made this deal but at the time based on everything we knew it was the best we could do. He has the dispute with the state prosecutor who says it's not true they were basically letting Jeffrey Epstein off. You know, that's devastating because the heart of his argument is, I got a better deal than the state could have gotten, that the state was ready to let him go with no jail time and we the feds came in as the heroes in this and we forced it into a situation where he would get an 18-month sentence. The state prosecutor who was in charge at the time saying that's just not true and he is making a point that makes sense which is he is saying since when do state prosecutors decide what the feds do? It's the other way around. The feds are the ones who are typically in charge. He did have this 53-page draft indictment. The one thing he's saying which is true you do cut deals sometimes that are ugly. Sometimes this he involve trying to protect the witnesses from having to testify, not having to roll the dice at trial, et cetera but there are a lot of other factors he's not addressing. Thanks very much. To the latest on a battle
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