Watch CBS News

Barr won't recuse himself from New York case against Jeffrey Epstein

Trump praises Acosta amid resignation calls
Trump praises Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta amid calls for him to resign 09:58

Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from the federal sex trafficking case brought against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in the Southern District of New York, CBS News confirms. The attorney general consulted with career ethics officials at the Justice Department before deciding not to recuse himself. 

However, because of his prior association with the firm Kirkland and Ellis, the attorney general will continue to be recused from any review of the previous federal case against Epstein in Florida. He said in South Carolina Monday, "I am recused from that matter because one of the law firms that represented Epstein long ago was a firm I subsequently joined for a period of time."

Epstein, now 66 years old, was first accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in Florida in 2007, but he escaped federal prosecution by making a secret deal to plead guilty to state charges for soliciting prostitution. Kirkland and Ellis partner Jay Lefkowitz was on the legal team representing Epstein in the case, and Alexander Acosta, who was a U.S. attorney in Miami at the time but now serves as labor secretary under President Trump, was charged with prosecuting the case. 

According to the Miami Herald, Lefkowitz met with Acosta, who also worked at Kirkland before he became a U.S. attorney, at a West Palm Beach hotel 70 miles from Miami, and there, the two reached an unusual non-prosecution agreement, under which Epstein would agree to pay settlements to some of the victims, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in the county jail. During his jail time, Epstein was allowed to leave six days a week to work at his office.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in February that prosecutors in Florida were wrong not to consult the victims before reaching the non-prosecution agreement, though he did not invalidate the agreement. He gave prosecutors and the victims' lawyers 15 days to make a recommendation about how to move forward, but that deadline has been extended.

Mr. Trump said Tuesday that he would look "very carefully" at Acosta's handling of the Epstein case, though he added, "You're talking about a long time ago, and it was a decision made I think not by him but by a lot of people. So we're going to look at it very carefully."

Epstein was charged Monday with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. If convicted of the felony charges, he could face 45 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty.

Paula Reid and Clare Hymes contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.