Harvard Law School professor Alan M. Dershowitz was sued for defamation on Tuesday by the two lawyers who are representing a woman who alleged last week that Dershowitz had sex with her while she was a minor.
Dershowitz said he welcomed the suit, the latest development in a high-stakes legal drama, because it will give him the opportunity to question the two lawyers and the accusing woman under oath, under pains of perjury.
“In the end, someone will be disbarred,” Dershowitz said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Either it will be me or the two lawyers. In the end, someone’s reputation is going to be destroyed: either mine or theirs.
“I’m thrilled they sued me,” he said.
Dershowitz’s name surfaced last week after two lawyers, Bradley J. Edwards of Florida and Paul G. Cassell of Utah, filed a motion in an ongoing civil case involving one of Dershowitz’s former private legal clients.
The motion asked a federal court judge in Palm Beach, Fla., to allow the addition of two plaintiffs to the suit. The suit challenges the propriety of a 2008 agreement by prosecutors that permitted billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein to plead guilty to prostitution-related charges and serve about a year in a prison. Dershowitz represented Epstein at the time.
The two women Edwards and Cassell wanted to add to the lawsuit claim they were minors when Epstein forced them to have sex with him and others. In their Dec. 30 filing, the lawyers said one of the women, identified as Jane Doe#3, asserts that Dershowitz was one of the men Epstein forced her to have sex with, in New York, New Mexico, Florida, on a Caribbean island owned by Epstein, and on Epstein’s private planes.
In response, Dershowitz took to the airwaves, saying on CNN and elsewhere that Edwards and Cassell should be disbarred for “unethical” conduct in putting forward the woman’s charges with scant investigation.
Dershowitz also filed a five-page affidavit in which he denied the allegations. Dershowitz said that he had traveled to Epstein’s Caribbean island and New Mexico home, but these visits took place only when he was traveling with his wife and daughter.
“There is no conceivable possibility that I could have had any sexual encounter with Jane Doe#3 during that period,” the affidavit says. “Her lawyers could have easily learned this by simply calling me for the specifics. I would have then provided them with the names of unimpeachable witnesses who would have contradicted Jane Doe#3’s false account.”
In the defamation suit against Dershowitz filed in Florida state court on Tuesday, Cassell and Edwards say they filed the allegations of sexual impropriety against Dershowitz “in fulfillment of their obligation” to their client.
The two lawyers said that Dershowitz, in responding to the allegations, “initiated a massive public media assault on the reputations and character of” them by “accusing them of intentionally lying in their filing.”
Reached by e-mail, Cassell, a former federal judge and now a University of Utah law professor, declined to comment. Edwards did not respond to a telephone message and e-mail.
Dershowitz said the allegations against him, besides being false, contain faulty legal research, such as the age of consent in New Mexico and other states.
“The truth is a defense in defamation, and I will prove that my statements about the lawyers are well-founded,” Dershowitz said. “I will not stop until they have acknowledged” the allegations against him are untrue.
Dershowitz also said he will use his travel and credit card records, which he said he has fastidiously saved, to refute the allegations against him.