MIAMI - Renowned lawyer Alan Dershowitz has seized upon a mystery man featured in a recent New York Times story to help defend against allegations that he had sex with Virginia Giuffre, one of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's underage victims, and to pursue a defamation case against the woman.
At a hearing in New York on Monday, Dershowitz's attorney, Howard Cooper, said that the shadowy man featured in the Times' story, who used the pseudonym Patrick Kessler, was part of a scheme that is strikingly similar to the extortion plot Dershowitz says is at the center of accusations Giuffre has made - falsely, he says - against him.
Dershowitz alleges that Giuffre, now 36, was pressured by her lawyer, David Boies, to publicly accuse Dershowitz of having sex with her in order to extort money from the other powerful men Giuffre says she was directed by Epstein to have sex with when she was a minor.
Monday's hearing was part of a high-stakes war between two of the country's most prominent lawyers: Dershowitz, the Harvard professor emeritus who defended Epstein, and Boies, best known for representing Al Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2000 presidential recount. Their feud, simmering for years, involves accusations of extortion, surreptitious recordings, unethical conduct and sex trafficking.
Earlier, Dershowitz persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska to disqualify Boies from representing Giuffre in her defamation suit against Dershowitz, after Dershowitz's lawyers said they intend to call Boies and members of his firm to testify in the case. Dershowitz has countersued Giuffre, and Boies has filed a separate defamation suit again Dershowitz.
Giuffre says she was 16 when she was recruited by an Epstein associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, while Giuffre was working as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's resort in Palm Beach. Epstein, a multimillionaire hedge fund manager and financier, was accused in 2006 of running a sexual pyramid scheme involving underage girls, and Giuffre claims she was directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Dershowitz, Prince Andrew and a number of other prominent men.
Dershowitz, the prince and others she has named in court papers have denied her allegations. Dershowitz, a friend and sometimes house guest of Epstein in addition to being his lawyer, emphatically denies he has ever met her.
Federal authorities reopened the Epstein case in January, and rearrested him in July, eight months after a Miami Herald investigative series, "Perversion of Justice," raised questions about whether there was undue influence that tainted the 2006-08 state and federal criminal investigations. At the time, Epstein received an extraordinarily lenient plea deal and was released after serving 13 months in the county jail.
Epstein was found dead at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York in August. Authorities say he committed suicide by hanging, but two renowned forensic pathologists have raised questions about the medical examiner's ruling and the integrity of the investigation into his death.
On Monday, two prominent U.S. senators called upon the Justice Department's inspector general to complete its investigation into Epstein's death. Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal demanded an update on the investigation this week, pointing out that it's been three months since Epstein was found unconscious in his cell.
"The Department's abject failure in this high-profile situation raises serious concerns about its ability to protect and secure inmates in the many cases that do not make the news," they wrote in a letter, which was also signed by two other Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Florida and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Since Epstein's death, dozens of other Epstein accusers have publicly come forward, alleging they were abused as girls or young women at his homes in New Mexico, New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and at locations abroad.
Kessler surfaced several months ago, claiming to a number of lawyers that he had access to Epstein's computer servers and had collected a trove of video files showing footage of powerful men, including Dershowitz, having sexual encounters with what appears to be girls or young women. He provided still photographs culled from those alleged videos to several people, including the Times, but some of them were blurry and no one was able to authenticate them.
The Times eventually concluded that Kessler and his photos were a fraud. But its subsequent story nevertheless detailed, through interviews with Kessler as well as emails and texts, how another one of Giuffre's attorneys, Stanley Pottinger, suggested that he and Boies could use the images to obtain financial settlements from some of the other powerful men Kessler claimed he had explicit footage of.
Pottinger and Boies purportedly pledged to place all of the settlements into a victims' compensation fund. But the lawyers soon began to question Kessler's credibility, and then Kessler, in turn, began having doubts about the attorneys' motives. Kessler then met with the Times privately, allegedly in an effort to expose the powerful men involved in Epstein's operation.
In the midst of the meetings with the lawyers and the Times, Kessler also placed a phone call to Dershowitz, which the professor says he recorded. Dershowitz asks Kessler on the recording whether he has any compromising video of him, and Kessler says he doesn't, despite having shown photos of a man that appears to be Dershowitz to Boies and Pottinger. The Times, in the story, questions whether Dershowitz's recording was "rehearsed.''
Ultimately, Kessler backed out of going forward with the Times, seemingly fabricating a number of excuses for not supplying the videos. The Times was unable to determine his real identity and he has vanished.
Dershowitz's lawyer said that the story, which appeared two days before Monday's hearing, confirmed the premise of Dershowitz's extortion scenario: that Boies pressured Giuffre to peddle lies about Dershowitz in order to get a payout from Les Wexner, the Victoria's Secret mogul also accused by Giuffre of sexual abuse.
"Mr. Kessler brought to the Times' attention a scheme that is a very close match to the scheme alleged here with regard to Leslie Wexner," said Dershowitz's attorney, adding later, "We will be pursuing, as I said, the entirety of the episode between Mr. Kessler and the lawyers.''
Reached Monday afternoon, Boies said: "Mr. Dershowitz's assertions are baseless and irresponsible and an attempt to divert attention from his own conduct. It is shameful."
Dershowitz responded: "It's Boies who is trying to divert attention from the pattern of misconduct reflected in his interactions with Leslie Wexner and the billionaires to whom he was planning to sell videos. These highly irregular interactions will be at the center of my case and should be investigated by law enforcement."
Cooper, the lawyer for Dershowitz, also revealed that they intend to depose a number of other prominent individuals Giuffre has accused of being involved with Epstein, which could lead to a parade of accused men.
But Preska on Monday made clear that she intends to narrow the scope of discovery in the case, limiting it to evidence that goes directly to whether Dershowitz had sex with Giuffre - and not delving into whether Giuffre was trafficked by Epstein as part of a wider conspiracy.
"We are not doing all this stuff. This is not going to be a book for my dear friends the reporters to write on this whole matter. We need to narrow it down and get to the issues quickly," Preska said.
Giuffre's lawyer, Charles Cooper, who coincidentally has the same last name as Dershowitz's attorney, said that he has no intention of turning the case into a media frenzy, but that information about Dershowitz's involvement with Epstein is an important aspect of the lawsuits that goes to whether he is telling the truth.
"We have no intention of trying to discover into whether Mr. Dershowitz has ever had sex generally with anyone other than his wife. But it is relevant and we believe goes to the heart of Mr. Dershowitz's credibility whether he has had sex in connection with Epstein's operation particularly given the fact that, apart from Ms. Giuffre, another young woman has alleged under oath that she too had sex with Mr. Dershowitz in connection with that operation."
That woman, Sarah Ransome, has said in court papers that she was trafficked by Epstein to Dershowitz, which Dershowitz has also denied, saying he has never met her and pointing to fabrications she has uttered.
Dershowitz was a pivotal member of the all-star legal team that helped Epstein avoid federal charges of sex trafficking in 2006-08, after he was accused by as many as three dozen underage girls of coercing them into sex. Epstein employed recruiters to go out into the community and lure teenage girls to come to his waterfront Palm Beach estate to give Epstein massages. They said they were led to an isolated area of his home, where he molested and in some cases raped them. A 53-page federal sex trafficking indictment was drafted and then shelved, resulting in Epstein pleading guilty to minor charges in state court.
The judge in the dueling defamation suits advised both sides to come up with parameters and a timetable for discovery by Dec. 16.
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