Three dozen Harvard law professors have come to the defense of Alan M. Dershowitz, an emeritus professor at the university’s law school, as he stands accused in court filings of having had sex with a minor in a high-profile sex scandal, The Boston Globe reports.
In a statement released on Friday, the 36 lawyers—who include such prominent figures as Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Laurence H. Tribe—take issue with how the sex-abuse accusation was brought against Mr. Dershowitz, in a lawsuit in which he has been unable to defend himself because he is not a named party.
The Harvard professors’ statement says they “are particularly troubled by the legal setting in which the recent attacks against Professor Dershowitz were made,” arguing that he has “been accused in a setting seemingly designed to deny him any effective opportunity to respond.”
“Responding to highly destructive and highly publicized allegations requires finding a forum that can credibly resolve the disputed facts,” says the statement, which notes that how the accusations were leveled, through court documents, is likely to prevent Mr. Dershowitz from suing for defamation. “The courts,” it says, “should not be used to make such attacks while preventing any effective response.”
The statement praises Mr. Dershowitz as “not only an excellent and committed teacher, but also a highly talented and honorable advocate, and a fearless public intellectual.” Other university faculty members have not publicly weighed in on the controversy, but Harvard was on winter recess when the accusations surfaced this month, and does not resume classes until Monday.
The accusations against Mr. Dershowitz have received widespread news-media attention. The alleged victim, who is now 31 years old, has asserted in court filings that Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire, forced her as a minor to have sex with Mr. Dershowitz, Britain’s Prince Andrew (who has also denied the accusations), and various politicians and powerful business executives. In a sworn affidavit given in federal court this week, the woman, identified in court documents only as Jane Doe No. 3, said she had begun having sex with Mr. Dershowitz, Mr. Epstein’s close friend, when she was about 16 years old.
Mr. Dershowitz denied the woman’s accusations as “totally false and outrageous,” and called her “a serial liar” in a sworn statement submitted this month to the federal court. In his statement he denied ever having sexual contact with her, and said he had been with his wife or other family members or friends in the locations where she alleges the sex took place.
He accused her two lawyers, Bradley G. Edwards of Florida and Paul G. Cassell, a professor of criminal law at the University of Utah and former federal judge, of recklessly inserting accusations against him that they should have known to be false into a legal proceeding to gain media attention. He has similarly attacked his accuser and her lawyers in media interviews, accusing the lawyers of misconduct and unethical behavior, and calling for their disbarment. The two lawyers have responded with a lawsuit accusing Mr. Dershowitz of defamation.
The woman identified as Jane Doe No. 3 first aired her accusations against Mr. Dershowitz in a legal filing in which she seeks to join two other woman, both of whom say they were the victims of sex trafficking by Mr. Epstein as children, in suing the federal government for not conferring with his victims in accepting a 2008 plea deal with him. As part of the deal, Mr. Epstein, who had Mr. Dershowitz as his lawyer and faced up to 10 years in prison, avoided federal prosecution and pleaded guilty to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution, for which he served 13 months of an 18-month prison sentence.