Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta Credit: Gage Skidmore

As detailed in the 1991 book The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: An American Nightmare by Don Davis, the crime scene in Dahmer’s Milwaukee apartment was a horror show:

A more detailed search of the apartment, conducted by the Criminal Investigation Bureau, revealed a total of four severed heads in Dahmer’s kitchen. A total of seven skulls—some painted, some bleached—were found in Dahmer’s bedroom and inside a closet. In addition, investigators discovered collected blood drippings upon a tray at the bottom of Dahmer’s refrigerator, plus two human hearts and a portion of arm muscle, each wrapped inside plastic bags upon the shelves. In Dahmer’s freezer, investigators discovered an entire torso, plus a bag of human organs and flesh stuck to the ice at the bottom. Elsewhere in Apartment 213, investigators discovered two entire skeletons, a pair of severed hands, two severed and preserved penises, a mummified scalp and, in the 57-gallon drum, three further dismembered torsos dissolving in the acid solution. A total of 74 Polaroid pictures detailing the dismemberment of Dahmer’s victims were found. In reference to the recovery of body parts and artifacts at 924 North 25th Street, the chief medical examiner later stated: “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene.”

Many of Dahmer’s victims were minors who he had lured off the streets with one enticement or another. The evidence against him obviously could not have been more overwhelming and he also helpfully confessed and pleaded guilty, which meant that the only disputes at trial were over his mental competence and the sentence he should receive. Fortunately, no powerful people worked behind the scenes on Dahmer’s behalf. Not so, apparently, in the case of Jeffrey Epstein:

Epstein’s name, I was told, had been raised by the Trump transition team when Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami who’d infamously cut Epstein a non-prosecution plea deal back in 2007, was being interviewed for the job of labor secretary. The plea deal put a hard stop to a separate federal investigation of alleged sex crimes with minors and trafficking.

“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta.

Jeffrey Dahmer was prosecuted by the state of Wisconsin and Jeffrey Epstein was ultimately prosecuted by the state of Florida, but that was only because of a secret non-prosecution agreement that Epstein made with our current Labor Secretary Alex Acosta who was then the U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida. Acosta claims he backed off prosecuting Epstein after he was told that Epstein “belonged to intelligence,” presumably meaning that he was a contract agent of the Central Intelligence Agency or perhaps another outfit like Naval Intelligence.

This was apparently all Acosta needed to hear. Epstein had been running a multi-state, in fact an international, underage sex-slavery ring involving an entire army of recruiters, schedulers, drivers, pilots, and paymasters that preyed on young girls and rented them out to rich and connected clients. But that was all non-prosecutable because someone alleged that Epstein had some ill-defined relationship with the intelligence community.

As a result, this is what happened:

Florida [federal] prosecutors had prepared a 53-page indictment accusing Mr. Epstein of being a sexual predator. But those charges were shelved in 2008 after an 11th-hour deal was reached between the United States attorney’s office in Miami and Mr. Epstein’s lawyers.

The agreement granted Mr. Epstein immunity from federal prosecution and let him plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Federal prosecutors arranged for the plea deal to be kept secret from Mr. Epstein’s accusers until it was finalized in court.

The deal let Mr. Epstein avoid a possible life sentence in federal prison. Instead, he spent 13 months at a Palm Beach jail and was permitted to leave the facility six days a week for work. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

While Dahmer’s crimes were more gruesome and involved murder, he had a much smaller list of victims. I bring him up to serve as a more extreme example of Epstein, but no one should minimize the horror or pain that Epstein has caused. That he had friends in high places doesn’t make him any less dangerous than Dahmer. In fact, this arguably has made him more dangerous.

If Dahmer’s case had been investigated by the Feds and passed off to Wisconsin with a non-prosecution agreement that was kept hidden from the families of the victims, I don’t think people would be debating whether the person responsible should still be serving in Trump’s cabinet. I don’t think any possible “intelligence” connections would have made a difference.

Is the Epstein case really so different?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at