Editor's note: Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on July 6, 2019, and faced federal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. On August 10, 2019, he died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. For more information, see The Daily Beast's reporting here.
Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz was accused of involvement in billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring by an attorney for one of Epstein’s victims, who claimed in federal court on Wednesday that the release of sealed documents will prove it.
Paul Cassell, who represents Virginia Roberts Giuffre, told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the testimony of other witnesses will show Dershowitz’s involvement in the alleged trafficking of “his close friend Jeffrey Epstein.”
“When all the records come out it will show that Epstein and [Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine] Maxwell were trafficking girls to the benefit of his friends, including Mr. Dershowitz,” Cassell said in oral arguments for a case filed by the Miami Herald to unseal a collection of court documents relating to Giuffre’s now settled lawsuit against Maxwell.
The hearing came nearly two weeks after a Florida judge ruled federal prosecutors violated the law when they inked a non-prosecution deal with Epstein in 2007—and concealed that agreement from more than 30 of Epstein’s victims. The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the secret deal, which was handled by Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, who was U.S. Attorney in Miami at the time.
Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, was one member of Epstein’s legal team that helped broker the unusual non-prosecution agreement.
For his part, Dershowitz and his lawyers are also requesting the court release the trove of documents to the public—but they say it’s in order to prove his innocence.
Outside the courtroom, Dershowitz railed against Giuffre and her attorneys, accusing them of fabricating Giuffre’s claims that Epstein forced her to have sex with Dershowitz. He alluded to emails between Giuffre and a friend that he claims will reveal Giuffre made up the claims against Dershowitz at the behest of her lawyers.
“I’ve denied ever meeting her or even knowing who she was,” Dershowitz said.
Moments later, he added of Giuffre, “She is hurting the #MeToo movement terribly. This was all about money and undercuts the many people who are victimized.”
Asked if he still represents Epstein, Dershowitz said, “I don’t represent Epstein” before walking back his answer: “You never stop being someone’s lawyer.”
“I was his lawyer until this deal was made,” Dershowitz added, before claiming he hasn’t seen Epstein in years.
In a letter to The Daily Beast, Dershowitz noted, “The accusation by Virginia Roberts Giuffre is the same one she made, and I conclusively disproved, more than four years ago. I produced all my travel and American Express records, which proved that I could not have been, and was not at the places and times she claims to have had sex with me. The former Director of the FBI carefully reviewed these records as part of a thorough investigation and concluded that “the totality of the evidence found during the investigation refutes the allegations.”
“Of course, Cassell accused me in open court,” he continued. “That is his modus operandi: to hide behind the litigation privilege so I can’t sue him and his clients for defamation. I challenge his clients—my false accusers—to repeat their false accusations to the Daily Beast, so I can sue them. They won’t because they know if they do, I will be able to prove that they submitted perjured affidavits and should be prosecuted. They have never accused me outside of court and I challenge them to do so. That would be news.”
Of Giuffre and Epstein accuser Sarah Ransome, he said: “Let me be clear: I never met either of these liars.”
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Epstein faced life behind bars for his alleged sex acts with minors but walked away with a slap on the wrist, pleading guilty to two state charges: solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution. The 66-year-old financier served 13 months of his 18-month sentence in a private wing of a Palm Beach jail and was allowed to leave on “work release” for 16 hours each day.
A recent Miami Herald investigation identified more than 80 women who claim they were molested by Epstein via a “sex pyramid scheme” from 2001 to 2006, at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere, though the number of victims is likely in the hundreds. Indeed, Epstein’s former butler kept a black book containing the names of hundreds of girls and young women that the billionaire recruited for sex and massages, the Herald reported.
Epstein hired girls as young as 13 to give him massages. Once they arrived at his home, he would molest his victims or masturbate, according to court records and police reports. In some cases, he forced his victims into intercourse with him or a young woman he called his Yugoslavian sex slave. After his sickening assaults, Epstein allegedly paid the girls $200 or $300, though sometimes as much as $1,000.
One of those victims was Giuffre, who claims she was 15 and working a summer job at Mar-a-Lago in 1998 when British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly recruited her as a masseuse for Epstein. Giuffre said Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” until 2002 and that she was forced to have sex with his friends, including Prince Andrew and Dershowitz. (Both men have adamantly denied the allegations.)
In September 2015, Giuffre filed a defamation suit against Maxwell after she called Giuffre’s claims “obvious lies” and, according to the complaint, “undertook a concerted and malicious campaign to discredit Giuffre and to so damage her reputation that Giuffre’s factual reporting of what had happened to her would not be credited.” The case settled in May 2017, records show.
In April 2018, the Miami Herald asked a federal judge in New York to unseal all documents that had been sealed or redacted in the suit.
“Though two previous motions to unseal have been denied, the reasoning underlying the denial—the imminence of trial, and potential impact on a jury—is no longer relevant because the case has been settled,” one lawyer for the Herald stated in court papers.
Before the Herald filed motions to intervene, Dershowitz and far-right podcaster Michael Cernovich also asked to unseal certain documents. It’s unclear which specific documents Dershowitz wanted to make public because his motion was partially redacted. Cernovich asked the court to unseal Maxwell’s summary judgment pleadings. The court denied both their requests, and they appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
On Wednesday, Sanford Bohrer, an attorney for the Herald, requested the 167 sealed documents in the case be sent to the district court and each one be reviewed for redactions before being released to the public. “Mr. Epstein for good or bad is a focus of some things that are really important today,” Bohrer said.
Ty Gee, a lawyer for Maxwell, indicated his client was the only party who opposed unsealing the court records and pushed for the panel to stick with U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet’s decision to keep the records secret.
Gee claimed Giuffre has “woven” a story that’s “become more exotic” all for the sake of making money. “It’s almost like I see a name in the news and I’m going to make an allegation against them,” Gee said.
Cernovich’s attorney, Marc Randazza, declared to the court, “All we have is Maxwell to overcome,” before holding up a black-lined redacted document and comparing the court records to “FOIA documents from the CIA.” The panel asked Randazza about Cernovich’s credentials and whether he should have the same rights as a journalist.
After Randazza spoke, Cassell said he would describe Cernovich as a self-professed “slut-shamer” and “a proxy or a stand-in for Mr. Dershowitz.” The only reason Cernovich filed motions requesting a release of the documents was because Dershowitz tried to do so himself and failed, Cassell told the panel. (This statement prompted Dershowitz, who was seated in the gallery, to whisper, “He’s defaming me in court.”)
Dershowitz’s attorney, Andrew Celli, asked for three documents pertaining to his client to be released immediately because the 81-year-old professor’s “reputation has been besmirched.” Celli denied Dershowitz was collaborating with Cernovich.
“Let me be absolutely clear: Mr. Dershowitz is happy and prepared and eager to unseal all documents in this case no matter what they say about him,” Celli said. “He believes, your honor, in the marketplace of ideas.”
Meanwhile, a collection of news outlets and First Amendment and free press groups filed a brief in support of the Herald’s appeal. The organizations included Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Associated Press Media Editors, POLITICO, FOX Television Stations, and the Washington Post, among multiple others.
“Contrary to the district court’s concern that public access to the Summary Judgment Documents will serve only to ‘promote scandal,’ access will provide the public and the press with information key to their understanding of this litigation, which relates to allegations of serial sexual assault and abuse of minors by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and has implicated high-level public officials and public figures,” the brief stated.
The public interest in the case “is particularly acute due to the variety of public figures and public officials who are alleged to be connected to Jeffrey Epstein and his victims,” the brief added, “such as President Donald Trump, former-President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Alan Dershowitz.”