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Epstein, politically connected billionaire, faces sex trafficking charges

A week ago, Jeffrey Epstein, a politically connected billionaire, thought he was in the clear. Now, he's in custody.
A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty)
A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Jeffrey Epstein, a politically connected billionaire, was accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in the early 2000s. A federal criminal investigation into his alleged activities raised the prospect of Epstein spending the rest of his life behind bars, but his high-profile legal team -- which featured Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr -- was able to strike a plea deal.

As regular readers know, the agreement was indefensibly generous. Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting sex from a minor in 2008, which led to an 18-month sentence. He was ultimately released after 13 months -- during which time he had been permitted to leave the prison and go to work during much of the day -- and then went back to living the high life.

As recently as a week ago, the Justice Department insisted in a court filing that there's no reason to invalidate Epstein's non-prosecution agreement -- which was engineered at the time by Alex Acosta, who now serves as Donald Trump's Labor secretary. At that point, Epstein was probably feeling pretty good about his future.

That changed over the weekend, when Epstein was arrested in connection with federal sex trafficking allegations as part of a joint NYPD and FBI investigation.

The arrest stems from incidents spanning from 2002 to 2005, three law enforcement officials said.... [A] senior law enforcement official briefed on the case says that Epstein is expected to face two federal charges for "dozens" of victims.The official says, Epstein allegedly paid minors cash for massages and then sex acts. He would then allegedly pay those alleged victims even more money to bring him their friends/others who he would also allegedly pay for acts.The official says that some victims are as young as 14 years old. These acts allegedly occurred at his Upper East Side and Palm Beach, Florida homes.

By all accounts, Epstein was taken into custody in New Jersey and will be arraigned in a federal court in New York later today.

There are all kinds of relevant questions about how the process will unfold, and legal experts can speak to the developments with authority I lack. That said, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge just how important the Miami Herald's reporting has been in shining a light on the allegations surrounding Epstein. Great journalism often produces dramatic results, and it's likely Epstein wouldn't be in custody now were it not for the newspaper's investigative work.

As for the political implications, I'm still not sure why Acosta hasn't been forced to resign from the president's cabinet.