Alan Dershowitz hits back at Netflix over Epstein-linked allegations

AMERICAN AFFAIRS: The famed defense attorney finds the tables turned as he faces the fight of his life amid underage sex allegations connected to Jeffrey Epstein.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the US Capitol in Washington on January 27. (photo credit: US SENATE TV/REUTERS)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the US Capitol in Washington on January 27.
(photo credit: US SENATE TV/REUTERS)
Alan Dershowitz has appeared on the courtroom stage, front pages and TV sets around the world as the defense attorney for some of the most notorious accused personalities of modern times – from OJ Simpson, Leona Helmsley and Jim Bakker to Patty Hearst and Claus Von Bulow, a case that resulted in the best-selling book and film Reversal of Fortune.
These days, however, one of the world’s most famous lawyers and a former prestigious Harvard law professor is engaged in the legal battle of his lifetime, defending a most important client – himself.
Amid accusations that he was a willing participant in the alleged sex trafficking operation of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s more than two decades ago, Dershowitz is aggressively going on the offensive.
Long labeled as an outspoken and controversial figure, Dershowitz today, like his famous clients, is now notorious himself. And he’s mad as hell.
“I’ve never had sex with an underage person. I never had sex with anybody who I met through Jeffrey Epstein. Since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein, I’ve had sex with one woman – my wife,” said Dershowitz this week in a Zoom call from his home on Martha’s Vineyard in Cape Cod, where he has been sequestered since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
“The reason I’m fighting so hard is not necessarily for me, but for everybody who’s been falsely accused. Imagine what it must feel like to have lived a completely honorable life and be accused like this. I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life. Period.”
It’s a little jarring to see the recognizable face of Dershowitz peering calmly out of the laptop screen, only days after seeing him recently on the TV screen as one of the featured players in the “tell-all” Netflix mini-series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.
Dressed in a sweatshirt and sporting a hairdo that’s become a common badge of honor among people of a certain age in the quarantine era, Dershowitz looks and acts much more vitally than his 81 years would suggest.
The Brooklyn native, a longtime defender and advocate for Israel, speaks with the intensity and focus of someone who’s spent countless hours in litigation, building a case with arguments that don’t contain a single extraneous thought or pause, and exhibiting a sense of confidence that doesn’t leave room for a shadow of a doubt.
That’s not how the Netflix series or the court of public opinion sees it. To recap: In the sordid saga that has seen everyone from Bill Clinton, billionaire philanthropist Leslie Wexner, Ehud Barak and Prince Andrew mentioned, Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. Within a month, he was found dead in his cell, officially a suicide but rife with speculation about more nefarious methods in play. Last month, his ex-girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested on charges relating to Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation.
Epstein was already a convicted sex offender who had previously served 13 months in a Florida jail in 2007 in a plea bargain deal brokered by his attorneys, including Dershowitz. Part of that deal was a non-prosecution agreement that absolved Epstein, his close associates and unnamed others of potential federal charges of sex trafficking.
In 2015, Dershowitz was accused in a Florida court of having had sex on seven occasions with Virginia Roberts Giuffre – one of the women who had also accused Epstein of turning her into an underage sex slave for himself and his friends at various properties around the world owned by Epstein, most notably his private Little St. James Caribbean island.
“In addition to being a participant in the abuse of (Giuffre) and other minors, Dershowitz was an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of many other minors by Epstein and several of Epstein’s co-conspirators,” Giuffre’s attorney Brad Edwards wrote in 2015.
DERSHOWITZ COUNTERSUED and the case was settled in 2016, with Dershowitz withdrawing his accusation that Giuffre’s attorneys acted unethically, and her attorneys saying it was a mistake to have filed the accusations against Dershowitz.
But in the ensuing years, Giuffre and Dershowitz have sued each other again in an ongoing case of she said he said. In addition, in 2018, another of Epstein’s alleged victims, Sarah Ransome, alleged that she had participated in a “threesome” with Dershowitz while she was working for Epstein.
All of those allegations – and more about Epstein’s evil empire – received the full glare of the world’s attention in the Netflix series. It builds a damning case against Epstein and Maxwell, full of compelling testimony from some of the women who claim to have been abused as minors by the couple over a multi-year period. It also implicates many of the rich and famous with whom they associated, including Dershowitz.
In one of the most riveting segments, Dershowitz appears on camera and says, “I challenge Giuffre to publicly accuse me of having had sex with her.” She then appears on screen and says exactly that.
“I purposely challenged her on the Netflix series, because she had absolutely refused to ever accuse me in the media. She had always accused me behind the privilege of litigation. So I could never sue her, and I was looking for the opportunity to sue her,” said Dershowitz.
“So the fact that she actually said it on television eliminated her immunity and I’ve now sued her, and I will prove at the trial that she made up the whole story, that she never met me.”
On Monday, a federal judge Monday ordered the unsealing and release of correspondence from attorneys for Dershowitz and Wexner. According to The Miami Herald, the documents show that Dershowitz alleges that Giuffre is trying to extort money from him because of his relationship as a longtime friend to and lawyer for Epstein. And Dershowitz wants Wexner to testify that they had privately settled a similar claim threatened by Giuffre.
“Giuffre has made a fortune, she’s made millions of dollars so far and she’s trying to make millions more from me and others,” said Dershowitz, citing payments for interviews she’s given.
According to the BBC, Giuffre was paid $160,000 by the Daily Mail for her story regarding her Epstein-ordered relationship with Prince Andrew and a photo of the two of them together (Prince Andrew has also denied ever meeting Giuffre).
Dershowitz claimed that Giuffre has major credibility problems, citing a passage in her Daily Mail interview about Al and Tipper Gore sitting together on Epstein’s island.
“Al and Tipper never met Jeffrey Epstein – she simply fantasized that whole story and sold it,” said Dershowitz. “What she did was to go through Epstein’s Rolodex, find famous names, including mine, and make up stories about them.”
Dershowitz referred to email correspondence between Giuffre and British reporter Sharon Churcher in late 2011, in which Giuffre asked Churcher to help her remember the names of her abusers for a pitch for her book, and Churcher answered: “Don’t forget Alan Dershowitz. JE’s buddy and lawyer... good name for your pitch as he repped Claus von Bulow and a movie was made about that case.”
“So we have overwhelming evidence – we have her own lawyer on tape saying that it was impossible for me to have been the places she said she had met me and that she was wrong, simply wrong,” said Dershowitz.
“And most importantly, the US government, in their indictments of Epstein and Ghislane Maxwell, didn’t rely on Giuffre’s testimony, evidence or alleged victimization. Neither of the indictments are about her so it’s clear that the US government didn’t believe her.”
Although dozens of women have come forward with testimony about Epstein and Maxwell using them as their sex slaves, only two – Giuffre and Ransome – have alleged that they were “lent” to Epstein’s friends. Regarding the other claim against him by Ransome, Dershowitz cited a 2016 article in the New York Post in which she intimated that she had sex tapes of half a dozen prominent people, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as proof of her having no credibility. Ransome later told The New Yorker that she had invented the tapes to draw attention to Epstein’s behavior and to make him believe that evidence would come out if she was harmed.
“These are the kind of people that Netflix is believing,” said Dershowitz, adding that he is in the process of filing suit as well against the entertainment company for defamation and breach of contract.
“Netflix broke its contract with me. They had agreed that if I challenged her and if she said on camera that she did have sex with me, that I would have an opportunity to show the emails, to show the tape recordings. I gave them the emails, I gave them the tape recordings, and they willfully and deliberately didn’t play them or show them in the series,” he said.
A query by the Post to Netflix for a reaction wasn’t answered.
ONE OF THE elements that the Netflix series focused on was the 2007 case in Florida, which was portrayed as a conspiracy of the powerful.
Starting in 2005, investigators had probed a sex-trafficking operation run by Epstein that connected his mansions in New York and Palm Beach and to his Caribbean island.
Despite sworn accounts from more than a dozen women alleging sex with minors and trafficking of women across state borders, Dershowitz and his team secured a deal approved by Southern Florida US Attorney Alex Acosta in which Epstein pleaded guilty to minor charges of soliciting a prostitute. He was sentenced to 18 months in a minimum security prison that he was allowed to leave every day and return to in the evening.
The decision came back to haunt Acosta, when more than a decade later he was appointed to be President Donald Trump’s labor secretary. Soon after, he was forced resign over mounting outrage over the seeming capitulation and “secret” deal he agreed to that prevented Epstein’s alleged victims from seeking justice.
Dershowitz defended the deal, saying he was just doing his job, and a very good one at that.
“I’m very proud of that deal. That’s what I’m supposed to do as a lawyer – get the best deal I can for my client. If there’s any criticism of the deal, then bring it to the judge or the prosecutor. The one person you can’t blame is the defense lawyer,” he said.
“Acosta didn’t have to take the deal, but the prosecution could not prove that he transported any women in interstate commerce. So they had a very weak federal case, and they had a very strong state case.
“Epstein didn’t think it was such a good deal. He actually fired me and refused to play my legal fee, because he thought that he shouldn’t have to be registered as a sex offender,” added Dershowitz.
“If I had known then what I know about him today, I would still have represented him. That’s my job. I’ve represented many terrible people. I wouldn’t want to live in a country where people who are accused of serious crimes don’t receive proper representation.”
A LOT OF attention in the series, and in the plethora of stories that have been published since Epstein became a household name, has focused on the nature of the relationship between him and Dershowitz.
And here too, from Dershowitz, there is complete rejection of any wrongdoing, inappropriate behavior or witnessing inappropriate behavior. He said he was introduced to Epstein in 1996 by Lady Rothschild, the wife of Sir Evelyn Robert de Rothschild.
“She told me he was a wonderful man and had contributed considerably to Harvard and very much wanted to meet me. Shortly thereafter, he invited me to Lesley Wexner’s 59th birthday party,” he said.
He called their friendship “academic” and involved visiting his homes in New York and Florida, as well as receiving massages from “middle-aged professional massage therapists” for him and his wife.
“When you went into Epstein’s house, the first thing they offered you was to have a massage therapist come to your room and give you a massage. I did it once. And my massage therapist was a middle-aged woman from Eastern Europe. I had never had a quote erotic massage in my life, period,” he told the Daily Mail last month.
He told the Post this week that the only time he was on Epstein’s private island – where Giuffre claims she had sex with him – he was with his wife and daughter.
“We were in the Caribbean already and he invited to come for dinner from one island to the other. There were no other young women on the island that I saw,” he said.
“I terminated my academic relationship with him the day I learned that he was being investigated for improper activities [in 2005]. I never spent another minute with him without being paid for it. It was a purely professional relationship from that point on. Once I finished my role as his lawyer [in 2008], I never saw or spoke with him again.”
Following Maxwell’s arrest and the alleged treasure drove of documents, videos and photos she holds that reveal many of the illegal activities that took place on Epstein’s properties, Dershowitz is hoping that they all see the light of day.
“Let the chips fall where they may. I said from day one, I hope that every video of every single sexual encounter is disclosed. I want Maxwell to name all the names. All that evidence will help me because I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Despite his courtroom demeanor and trademark tenacity, it’s clear that the long, ongoing battle Dershowitz has waged to clear his name is taking its toll. Between his notoriety and the results of the coronavirus pandemic, the once ubiquitous speaker on college campuses, forums and conferences has gone silent.
“I have causes that I believe in. I’ve been a major speaker on college campuses on behalf of civil liberties, due process, human rights, Israel, you name it. And now, I can’t be invited to speak on campuses – there would be riots and protests because people already believe I did something wrong,” he said.
“I will not allow, to the extent that I can control these false accusations, to destroy my ability to defend the causes I believe in, but I can’t control who invites me. For example, the 92nd Street Y in New York, where I’ve regularly spoken at for 25 year, has basically canceled me.
“I offered to speak about my book Defending Israel, and they said no. They told my agent that they didn’t believe the charges, but since I had been accused, they didn’t want any trouble with protests.”
A query to the 92nd Y by the Post was unanswered.
“In today’s environment, if you’re accused, you’re guilty. It’s like McCarthyism, which I experienced in high school and college, and fought against. The book I’m working on now is called Cancel Culture: The Death of Due Process and Freedom of Speech.
“I am a victim here, but I am not a silent victim, I am fighting back. In my case there is no gray – it’s black and white. One of us is committing perjury. I’m going to hold my hand on the Bible and swear that I never met her [Giuffre] and she is going to swear that she had sex with me seven times. One of us will commit perjury, and it will be her.
“I am totally, 100% innocent. I’ve lived a good life, never committed these crimes, yet people believe this serial liar over me. It tells you something about the society we live in. Why do people choose to believe her and not me? That’s the question.”
The answer, like so many times in Dershowitz’s career, will eventually emerge in a courtroom. Whether it’s the answer that exonerates him or admits him permanently into the rogue’s gallery of his most famous clients, is not in his hands.•