As we reported in early January 2015, famed attorney and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz was dragged into a controversy regarding Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious “Orgy Island,” Dershowitz presumed innocent in zero-sum defamation game:

Alan Dershowitz, along with others including Prince Andrew of Britain, were accused in a court filing involving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein of participating in forced sex with a 17-year old. Despite many celebrities, including Bill Clinton, having spent time on Orgy Island, Dershowitz was the only one actually dragged into the case through mention in the pleadings.

The court filing was not criminal, and was not even under oath. It merely was a motion suing prosecutors for agreeing to a light sentence for Epstein, without any evidence accompanying the allegations.

Dershowitz completely denied the charges:

Dershowitz and the lawyers filed claims against each other, and now have settled, with the lawyers acknowledging the accusations never should have been made.

The Epstein Case

Dershowitz represented Epstein during the criminal investigation that resulted in Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea on charges of prostitution-related charges.  The plea deal and relatively light sentence incensed many due to Epstein’s reputed years or decades of soliciting underage girls and some unusual tactical decisions by prosecutors.  In the end, Epstein served 13 months of an 18-month sentence.

In 2008, two of Epstein’s alleged victims (Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2) filed suit against federal prosecutors, alleging they violated the Crime Victims Rights Act in agreeing to the plea deal.  After the 11th Circuit Court of appeals issued a decision allowing discovery in the CVRA suit to proceed in 2014, Paul Cassell, one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, wrote in the Washington Post:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida accepted Epstein’s case for prosecution, and the FBI issued victim notification letters to my two clients, minors Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2, in June and August 2007. Extensive plea negotiations ensued between the prosecutors and Epstein.  On Sept. 24, 2007, the  prosecutors entered into a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in which they agreed not to file any federal charges against Epstein in exchange for his guilty plea to minor Florida offenses (e.g., solicitation of prostitution).  Not only did the prosecutors neglect to confer with the victims before they entered into the agreement with Epstein, they also concealed its existence for at least nine months.

In December, 2014, Cassell and his co-counsel Brad Edwards filed papers seeking to add two additional alleged Epstein victims as plaintiffs – Jane Doe No. 3 and Jane Doe No. 4. Those papers included numerous sordid allegations regarding Dershowitz, including that he repeatedly had sex with Jane Doe No. 3, while she was a minor, and then protected himself by conspiring with the government to conceal the terms of Epstein’s putative sweetheart plea deal.  Among the allegations:

One such powerful individual that Epstein forced then-minor Jane Doe #3 to have sexual relations with was former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a close friend of Epstein’s and well-known criminal defense attorney. Epstein required Jane Doe #3 to have sexual relations with Dershowitz on numerous occasions while she was a minor, not only in Florida but also on private planes, in New York, New Mexico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to being a participant in the abuse of Jane Doe #3 and other minors, Deshowitz was an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of many other minors by Epstein and several of Epstein’s co-conspirators. Dershowitz would later play a significant role in negotiating the NPA on Epstein’s behalf. Indeed, Dershowitz helped negotiate an agreement that provided immunity from federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida not only to Epstein, but also to “any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.” NPA at 5. Thus, Dershowitz helped negotiate an agreement with a provision that provided protection for himself against criminal prosecution in Florida for sexually abusing Jane Doe #3. Because this broad immunity would have been controversial if disclosed, Dershowitz (along with other members of Epstein’s defense team) and the Government tried to keep the immunity provision secret from all of Epstein’s victims and the general public, even though such secrecy violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

In response, Dershowitz filed his own motion to intervene so he could have allegations in the intervention papers and a subsequent affidavit stricken and seek sanctions against Cassell and Edwards.  He also made various public statements about the claims’ the lack of merit, and Cassell and Edwards’ behavior in repeating and relying upon Jane Doe No. 3’s statements.

In April, 2015, Judge Kenneth A. Marra of the Southern District of Florida denied Dershowitz’s motion to intervene, but only because he struck Jane Doe No. 3’s allegations on his own power as “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.”  The Court then warned:

the Court finds that its action of striking the lurid details from Petitioners’ submissions is sanction enough. However, the Court cautions that all counsel are subject to Rule 11’s mandate that all submissions be presented for a proper purpose and factual contentions have evidentiary support.

Dershowitz called Marra’s decision a “complete legal vindication,” though others pointed out that Marra did not rule on the truth or falsity of the allegations, but only on the lack of adequate pleading.  Both arguments are fair, but Dershowitz’s is better.

Superficially, Marra’s decision did not address the substance of the allegations against Dershowitz, but only the technical failure to plead adequate support.  In practice, though, experienced attorneys bringing serious claims know how to properly present and plead their evidence, if there is any.

Events this week moot the argument – Dershowitz has been unequivocally vindicated.

The Defamation Suits

In January, 2015, Edwards and Cassell filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz.  They alleged:

Immediately following the filing of what the Defendant, DERSHOWITZ, knew to be an entirely proper and well-founded pleading [the December, 2014, intervention papers], DERSHOWITZ initiated a massive public media assault on the reputation and character of BRADLEY J. EDWARDS and PAUL G. CASSELL accusing them of intentionally lying in their filing, of having leveled knowingly false accusations against the Defendant, DERSHOWITZ, without ever conducting any investigation of the credibility of the accusations, and of having acted unethically to the extent that their willful misconduct warranted and required disbarment.

Dershowitz, of course, counterclaimed, saying Edwards and Cassell had defamed him by filing the intervention papers containing unsupported allegations that he sexually assaulted a minor, by subsequently inducing various media members to report those allegations as true, and by giving the impression that Dershowitz had resisted appearing for deposition.  Certainly, anti-Semites and Israel-haters enjoyed seeing Dershowitz suffer.

The Settlement

This week, the parties settled the dueling defamation suits.  Almost all cases settle in the end, so that is no surprise.

What is extraordinary is the joint statement by the parties.  The Gatestone Institute has it in full, here.  The critical passage reads (emphasis added):

Edwards and Cassell maintain that they filed their client’s allegations in good faith and performed the necessary due diligence to do so, and have produced documents detailing those efforts. Dershowitz completely denies any such misconduct, while not disputing Roberts’s statements that the underlying alleged misconduct may have occurred with someone else. Dershowitz has produced travel and other records for the relevant times which he relies on to establish that he could not have been present when the alleged misconduct occurred. He has also produced other evidence that he relies upon to refute the credibility of the allegations against him. . . .

Given the events that have transpired since the filing of the documents in the federal court and in this action in which Dershowitz was accused of sexual misconduct, including the court order striking the allegations in the federal court filings, and the records and other documents produced by the parties, Edwards and Cassell acknowledge that it was a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz; and the sexual misconduct accusations made in all public filings (including all exhibits) are hereby withdrawn.

Dershowitz is quoted in The Boston Globe about the settlement:

Dershowitz, 77, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School, welcomed the resolution of the case.

“It’s as if I’ve been waterboarded for 15 months,” Dershowitz said. “This has taken a terrible toll on my family, on my friends. . . . I never met this woman, I didn’t know her.”

There is no way to unring the bell when false accusations are made in such a public manner. Yet, the acknowledgement that the accusations should never have been filed in the first place helps clear the record.

Follow Jonathan Levin on Twitter @JNLevin