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Sex allegations against Dershowitz called ‘mistake’

Attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz.

Andrew Innerarity/Reuters

Attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz.

Two plaintiffs’ lawyers admitted Friday that they made “a mistake” when they accused famed attorney Alan Dershowitz of having sex with their client when she was a minor.

The admission came in a joint statement released by the lawyers, Paul G. Cassell and Bradley J. Edwards, and Dershowitz to settle defamation suits the two sides filed against one another in state court in Florida.

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“Edwards and Cassell acknowledge that it was a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz,” the statement said. “[A]nd the sexual misconduct accusations made in all public filings ... are hereby withdrawn. Dershowitz also withdraws his accusations that Edwards and Cassell acted unethically.”

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

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“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.”

The defamation suits stemmed from a motion that Cassell and Edwards filed in December 2014 in a separate, federal lawsuit in Florida that involved one of Dershowitz’s former clients, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The lawsuit challenged the propriety of a 2008 agreement by prosecutors that permitted Epstein to plead guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution and serve about a year in prison.

In the December 2014 motion, Cassell and Edwards asked a judge to allow the addition of two plaintiffs to the suit. One of them had said Dershowitz was among the men Epstein forced her to have sex with many years earlier, in New York, New Mexico, Florida, on a Caribbean island owned by Epstein, and on Epstein’s private planes. The woman included Dershowitz in a list of several “prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders” she was allegedly forced to have sex with, court records show.

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A judge denied Cassell and Edwards’ motion in April 2015 and struck the allegations from the case, calling them “immaterial and impertinent.” But Dershowitz pressed on with his defamation suit.

Friday’s joint statement said the defamation case “was about Dershowitz’s public claims that Edwards and Cassell . . . failed to perform the necessary due diligence before filing the allegations of their client, not whether the acts of alleged misconduct in fact occurred.”

Dershowitz produced travel documents and other records showing he could not have been present at specific locations and times when the woman claimed the sexual misconduct occurred, and that he produced additional evidence to “refute the credibility of the allegations,” the statement said.

On Friday night, Dershowitz also provided correspondence from former FBI director Louis J. Freeh indicating Dershowitz’s accuser also alleged she and President Clinton were on Epstein’s island at the same time at some point between Jan. 1, 2001 and Jan. 1, 2003.

However, Freeh wrote, there is no record of the former president’s Secret Service detail traveling with him to the island then, leading Freeh to conclude Clinton was not there.

Through their attorney, Cassell and Edwards said in a court filing Friday that the “allegations against Defendant Dershowitz became a major distraction from the merits of the well-founded . . . case by causing delay and, as a consequence, turned out to have been a tactical mistake. For that reason, Edwards and Cassell have chosen to withdraw the referenced filing as a condition of settlement.”

Sean P. Murphy and Mark Shanahan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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