Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alan Dershowitz’s Recurring Nightmare: Accusations Of Involvement In Sex Scandal May Be Older Than You Thought

Alan Dershowitz’s Recurring Nightmare: Accusations Of Involvement In Sex Scandal May Be Older Than You Thought

Alan Dershowitz
Alan Dershowitz
“A good lawyer knows how to shut up when he’s won his case.”
— Alan Dershowitz, “The Trouble With Rape Prosecutions,” commenting on the case of Dominique Strauss-Khan
“I’m never satisfied unless I get the last word.”
— Alan Dershowitz, Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law (affiliate link)
Alan Dershowitz’s most recent salvo in his growing feud with Paul Cassell and Brad Edwards, the lawyers representing a woman who claims Dershowitz sexually abused her when she was a minor, appeared in the Wall Street Journal on January 14. In A Nightmare of False Accusation That Could Happen to You, Dershowitz assembles a collage of frightening possibilities. He begins:
Imagine the following situation: You’re a 76-year-old man, happily married for nearly 30 years, with three children and two grandchildren. You’ve recently retired after 50 years of teaching at Harvard Law School. You have an unblemished personal record, though your legal and political views are controversial. You wake up on the day before New Year’s Eve to learn that two lawyers have filed a legal document that, in passing, asserts that 15 years ago you had sex on numerous occasions and in numerous locations with an underage female.
The accusation doesn’t mention the alleged victim’s name—she’s referred to as Jane Doe #3, and the court document includes no affidavit by her. But her name doesn’t really matter, because you have never had sex with anyone other than your wife during the relevant time period. The accusations against you are totally false, and you can prove it.
Professor Dershowitz raises good points of discussion for lawyers and policymakers. But what he may not be doing by offering “Kafka-esque” extremes is fairly characterizing his own current situation. The most recent motion is, indeed, significant because it includes a direct allegation that Dershowitz was not only present during Epstein’s alleged crimes, but engaged in sexual misconduct directly. But Alan Dershowitz has been, for several years, named in court documents as a possible witness or participant in billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged pattern of sexual misconduct with minor females.
Dershowitz’s attempts to win the public’s support should not omit the long history of litigation surrounding the Epstein scandal, the previous challenges to discovery efforts by the attorneys representing the alleged victims, and, most importantly, the fact that Dershowitz has been the subject of some of those efforts for quite some time.
To see Dershowitz’s story clearly now, one must revisit Scott Rothstein’s story.
Scott Rothstein is the (now-disbarred) lawyer who once was a partner at the (now-defunct) Florida firm of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. In 2010, Rothstein received a 50-year prison sentence for perpetrating one the largest financial frauds in history, a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme wherein Rothstein swindled investors into believing they were purchasing interests in confidential settlements in ongoing litigation. Rothstein relied on the fact that lawyers at his firm represented plaintiffs in some of the highest-profile sexual misconduct litigation in the country, just the sort of cases where defendants might plausibly settle with alleged victims for enormous sums. As it turns out, civil litigation against Jeffrey Epstein was among the cases on which Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme relied. Brad Edwards — then a lawyer at Rothstein’s firm, now one of two attorneys responsible for the recent allegations against Dershowitz — represented several of Epstein’s alleged victims.
Scott Rothstein admitted that he used his colleague Brad Edwards’s cases against Epstein in Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme. However, Rothstein never implicated Edwards in criminal activity. To the contrary, Rothstein publicly apologized to Edwards.
In 2009, Jeffrey Epstein filed the first of three suits against Brad Edwards. In his first complaint, Epstein claimed that Rothstein used the litigation team led by Edwards to “pursue issues and evidence unrelated to and unnecessary to the claims pled in the Civil Actions [against Epstein], but significantly beneficial to lure investors into the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by ROTHSTEIN and other co-conspirators.” Rothstein told potential investors that the litigation team had discovered “high-profile individuals onboard Epstein’s private jet where sexual assaults took place,” including “celebrities, dignitaries, and international figures.” Epstein’s complaint claims that “the Litigation Team relentlessly and knowingly pursued flight data and passenger manifests regarding flights EPSTEIN took with these famous individuals knowing full well that no underage women were onboard and no illicit activities took place. ROTHSTEIN and the Litigation Team also inappropriately attempted to take the deposition of these celebrities in a calculated effort to bolster the marketing scam that was taking place.”
One of those celebrities, on page 14 of the first Epstein complaint, is Alan Dershowitz.
Circuit Judge David Crow dismissed two early versions of Epstein’s suit against Edwards. Epstein eventually dropped his third suit. Before then, Edwards denied Epstein’s allegations. On page 26 of the Undisputed Statement of Facts filed by Edwards, he addresses what he claims was the basis for his good faith belief in pursuing the individuals Epstein listed on page 14 of his complaint, including Dershowitz. Edwards writes (citations omitted):
72. Edwards provided notice that he intended to depose Alan Dershowitz. Edwards possessed a legitimate basis for doing so: (a) Dershowitz is believed to have been friends with Epstein for many years; (b) in one news article Dershowitz comments that, “I’m on my 20th book . . . The only person outside of my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey”; (c) Epstein’s housekeeper Alfredo Rodriguez testified that Dershowitz stayed at Epstein’s house during the years when Epstein was assaulting minor females on a daily basis; (d) Rodriguez testified that Dershowitz was at Epstein’s house at times when underage females where [sic] there being molested by Epstein; (e) Dershowitz reportedly assisted in attempting to persuade the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office that because the underage females alleged to have been victims of Epstein’s abuse lacked credibility and could not be believed that they were at Epstein’s house, when Dershowitz himself was an eyewitness to their presence at the house; (f) Jane Doe No. 102 stated generally that Epstein forced her to sexually exploited by not only Epstein but also Epstein’s “adult male peers, including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen, and/or other professional and personal acquaintances” — categories that Dershowitz and acquaintances of Dershowitz fall into; (g) during the years 2002 – 2005 Alan Dershowitz was on Epstein’s plane on several occasions according to the flight logs produced by Epstein’s pilot and information (described above) suggested that sexual assaults may have taken place on the plane; (h) Epstein donated $30 Million one year to the university at which Dershowitz teaches. Based on this information, Edwards had a reasonable basis to believe that Dershowitz might have relevant information to provide in the cases against Jeffrey Epstein and accordingly provided notice of a possible deposition.
(An aside: If you are wondering what this fellow Alfredo Rodriguez might have to say about the most recent allegations about Dershowitz, don’t. Rodriguez died on December 28, 2014, according to British news sources and local obituaries.)
This 2010 statement by Brad Edwards is exactly that — a statement by Edwards, not the conclusions of any third-party fact-finder. Some of the bases listed are, on their face, weak. For example, Epstein’s donation to Dershowitz’s university — Harvard — doesn’t in and of itself say much more than that an obscenely wealthy philanthropist gave a hefty sum to the world’s most prestigious university. However, the statement above is noteworthy because it, like Epstein’s complaint, refers to Dershowitz as a potential witness in the early Epstein litigation saga.
Dershowitz may be guilty of none of the wrongdoing of which he is accused. If so, his indignation is righteous, and his eventual vindication will be a victory for the justice system as a whole, not only for Dershowitz personally. Nevertheless, observers should not mistake his insistence on his innocence with a suggestion that Dershowitz was completely blindsided by the accusations of the last few weeks. In defending himself against the latest accusations, he should not leave out this important context.
UPDATE (1/18/2015, 4:15 p.m.): Check out the comments for what appears to be a response from Professor Dershowitz to this column. In addition, check out Vivia Chen’s very interesting interview with Dershowitz, also noted in the comments to this post. Here’s what he tells Chen about Paul Cassell’s involvement in this matter: “No one can understand Cassell’s motive. Either he will be disbarred or I will be. And if I knowingly had sex with a sex slave then I would deserve disbarment.”
A Nightmare of False Accusation That Could Happen to You [Wall Street Journal]

Tamara Tabo is a summa cum laude graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s law review. After graduation, she clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She currently heads the Center for Legal Pedagogy at Texas Southern University, an institute applying cognitive science to improvements in legal education. You can reach her at

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