Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s victims were dealt a loss Monday when the Justice Department determined the New York money manager’s lenient plea deal must stand, rejecting a request by victims to prosecute him for molesting dozens of underage girls, The Miami Herald was first to report.
Epstein could have faced up to life in prison after police found evidence showing a pattern of abuse by him at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. But a highly controversial 2008 plea agreement, approved by former U.S. Attorney for Miami Alexander Acosta, resulted in a sentence for Epstein of just 13 months in county jail.
In February, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that federal prosecutors working under Acosta had broken the law by concealing the agreement from more than 30 people who accused Epstein of abuse. Acosta now serves in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of labor.
It will now be up to Marra to decide how to proceed.
Although the victims said the deal violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because it was initially kept secret from them, prosecutors said that did not mean the agreement should be voided, The Associated Press reported.
Epstein, 66, maintains that he believed the girls had been 18 years old at the time of his sexual encounters with them and that the relations were consensual.
A shocking Miami Herald report published in November detailed the known extent of Epstein’s actions, which involved female fixers who allegedly brought the girls to his properties. Reporter Julie K. Brown identified about 80 women who say they were abused by Epstein, and the total number could be much higher.
“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,’’ Courtney Wild, who said she once served as a fixer for Epstein, told the Herald. “He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.’’
Epstein once counted Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his many powerful friends, and his legal team included such big names as Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr.
The plea deal also included wording to shield “any potential co-conspirators,” making it all the more unusual.
Sources told the Herald that at least 18 women would still like to see Epstein prosecuted.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.