Alan Dershowitz asks judge to dismiss Epstein victim's defamation case

Dershowitz argued that his Twitter attacks against Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that Epstein forced her to have sex with Dershowitz when she was underage, are protected free speech.

Alan Dershowitz outside his home in Miami Beach, Florida (photo credit: ANDREW INNERARITY / REUTERS)
Alan Dershowitz outside his home in Miami Beach, Florida
Alan Dershowitz, who represented convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein when he was sentenced in 2008, has asked a judge to dismiss a defamation case filed by a victim of Epstein's sex trafficking who claims that she was forced to have sex with Dershowitz, according to the Miami Herald.
In New York on Tuesday, Dershowitz argued that his Twitter attacks against Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that Epstein forced her to have sex with Dershowitz when she was underage, are protected free speech. Dershowitz has attacked her on Twitter and other media for years.
The lawyer, who has represented multiple controversial people, including O.J. Simpson and far-right Jewish Defense League activists, is attempting to get the defamation case thrown out or at least have Giuffre's lawyer, David Boies and his firm, removed from representing her.
Dershowitz has labeled Giuffre "a liar, a perjurer and an extortionist." His attorney, Howard Cooper, claims that his statements, particularly those on the internet, are not libelous, because they were the same statements he has leveled against Giuffre for many years and were made under "a self-defense privilege," which grants people the ability to publicly defend themselves against false claims under certain circumstances with some restrictions, according to the Miami Herald.
Cooper argued that since Giuffre failed to sue Dershowitz when he first made comments against her four years ago, she can't now argue that she was defamed by recent comments by him on Twitter. Since the comments are the same as those in 2015, they are outside the statute of limitations, said Cooper to US District Court Judge Loretta Prescott.
According to New York state law, defamation cases must be filed within a year of the event. New York also has a "single publication rule" which prevents another defamation case from being brought with each publication of the alleged libelous statement, even if it's repeated on the internet.
The New York Court of Appeals ruled that altering the alleged defamatory content could be considered "republication," and some courts have also ruled that moving content to different platforms also counts as republication, resetting the statute of limitations.
Dershowitz's attorneys claim that everything he said is the same as his earlier statements and should be covered by the statute of limitations.
Prescott questioned Cooper on whether New York's law of defamation gives people the right to repeat potentially libelous statements forever.
"How are the later statements he made a republication?" asked Prescott. "Are you saying that Mr. Dershowitz can keep saying these statements seven days a week, 20 channels a day, forever?"
The attorney replied that it's presumed that Dershowitz's comments have reached a global audience by now and become "viral" and therefore immune from libel claims.
Sigrid McCawley, who represents Giuffre, said that even if Dershowitz's media audience is the same as in 2015, his recent statements are different from his earlier ones.
For example, Dershowitz has only accused Boies of heading a scheme using Dershowitz as leverage against Wexner, an Ohio billionaire who was an Epstein client, over the past year.
Dershowitz's lawyers claim that Giuffre had said in court papers that she was forced to have sex with Wexner. Dershowitz repeated that charge in public. He claimed that the Boies firm was accusing him of sexually abusing Giuffre in order to extract a settlement from him, under the presumption that Wexner would be afraid that Giuffre would go public with her allegations against him like she did with Dershowitz.
There has been no indication of any settlement with Wexner, who has made no comment about Giuffre's allegations or Dershowitz's statements.
After Epstein was arrested in August, Wexner said in a letter to members of the board of his charitable foundation that he ended with Epstein in 2007. He also claimed that Epstein had misappropriated millions of dollars from him over the years, although he didn't report that to authorities.
Giuffre's allegations were revealed as part of a 2008 civil court case against the government by several women who were molested by teenagers in South Florida by Epstein, who was connected with both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, among others. Giuffre said that Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew as well as Dershowitz.
Dershowitz publicly attacked Giuffre and her attorneys starting in 2015. Her attorneys sued for defamation and the case later settled out of court when Giuffre's lawyers issued a statement acknowledging that filing Giuffre's affidavit was a distraction from the merits of the 2008 case. The statement did not, however, address the veracity of Giuffre's claims, which she still stands by.
In November, Dershowitz attacked Giuffre again and publicly invited her to sue him for defamation, so that he could prove that she was a liar in court. Giuffre sued him in April.
"I welcome this lawsuit because everything in the complaint is false and I will be able to disprove all of this in a court of law," said Dershowitz at the time to the Miami Herald. Two months later, he filed a motion to have the case dismissed, claiming that the constitutional argument of free speech is more important than his own interests of vindication in court.
"This is what happens when someone believes to their core that they've been falsely accused of a heinous crime and decides what one can only do in an age of global communication is to defend themselves. This is a really important issue," said Cooper.
In February, a judge ruled the 2008 deal illegal because the Jewish billionaire’s victims were not notified before it was approved. The case was reopened after a Miami Herald reporter identified some 80 alleged victims who said they were recruited into a sex ring run by Epstein and made to recruit others.
Epstein, awaiting trial for sex trafficking and conspiracy, was found dead in his cell in August. Authorities believe it was suicide.
Epstein was found dead a day after a judge unsealed thousands of pages of court records from a lawsuit that alleged he had recruited and prostituted a 17-year-old girl to wealthy friends.
Sydney Dennen and Ben Sales/JTA contributed to this report.