Federal prosecutors, including current Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, violated the rights of sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein's victims during their investigation of the once-influential financier a decade ago, a judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra slammed the government for failing to notify Epstein's victims that it had reached a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein while leading those victims to believe that federal charges were still a possibility.
"It was a material omission for the Government to suggest to the victims that they have patience relative to an investigation about which it had already bound itself not to prosecute," Marra wrote in a 33-page opinion.
More than two dozen lawmakers, primarily Democrats, called on the Department of Justice to open a probe last year into Acosta's dealings with Epstein while Acosta served as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. The calls for an inquiry followed an investigation into the deal between prosecutors and Epstein published by the Miami Herald.
The judge did not take issue with the decision not to bring federal charges against Epstein, who served 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to state charges. Epstein, who has had powerful friends such as Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.
But Marra said that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act in their dealings with two unnamed underage victims.
"When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading," Marra wrote. "While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [non-prosecution agreement] with Epstein's attorneys, scant information was shared with victims. Instead, the victims were told to be 'patient' while the investigation proceeded."
A representative for the Department of Labor told NBC News in a statement that "the actions of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general."
The representative added: "The office's decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures."
The White House referred inquiries to the Labor Department's statement. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.