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Dershowitz Settles Sex Case, But Is He Vindicated?

Vivia Chen

April 11, 2016


I've been covering Alan Dershowitz for over a year now, and I can assure you he's not repressed. When we chatted on the phone on Saturday, he got right to the point: "I got what I always wanted. They withdrew everything!"

Dershowitz is talking about the settlement that he reached with lawyers Brad Edwards and Paul Cassell, who sued the famous Harvard professor for defamation; Dershowitz also countersued them. (If you need a refresher, the backdrop is that Edwards and Cassell's client Virginia Roberts Giuffre accused Dershowitz, along with Prince Andrew and others, of having sex with her when she was a minor. Dershowitz denied the charges and accused her two lawyers of acting improperly.)

Last Friday, Edwards and Cassell issued a notice of withdrawal of the motion for partial summary judgement, and the litigation came to an end. The notice is short and sweet; here's the key part:

As expressly understood by the parties upon the execution of the Confidential Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release, Ms. Giuffre reaffirms her allegations, and the withdrawal of the referenced filings is not intended to be, and should not be construed as being, an acknowledgement by Edwards and Cassell that the allegations made by Ms. Giuffre were mistaken. Edwards and Cassell do acknowledge that the public filing in the Crime Victims’ Rights Act case of their client’s allegations against Defendant Dershowitz became a major distraction from the merits of the well-founded Crime Victims’ Rights Act 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.

Let's parse this: Edwards and Cassell say they the accusations against Dershowitz were a "distraction" and "tactical mistake," though they stand by their clients allegations. That's essentially saying, "Oops, our bad for accusing Dershowitz of those nasty things, but that doesn't mean he's innocent."

If Dershowitz was looking for total vindication, I'm not sure this cuts it. But Dershowitz says he's satisfied with the wording in the settlement. As a legal matter, he says, Giuffre's lawyers couldn't admit she was wrong to accuse him. "They can't take back the claims because that could be used against her on a perjury indictment. That would mean throwing her under the bus," he explains. "Ultimately, they'll have to make a claim that it was case of mistaken identity, that it was done in good faith."

What might give Dershowitz more satisfaction is the joint statement that he, Edwards and Cassell issued about the settlement:

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.

The parties believe it is time to take advantage of the new information that has come to light on both sides during the litigation and put these matters behind them.

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 also withdraws his accusations that Edwards and Cassell acted unethically.

Lots of legal contortions here, but this is the eye-popper: "Edwards and Cassell acknowledge that it was a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz." And this time, "mistake" was not preceded with the word "tactical." I can only imagine the amount of negotiation that must have been expended on this joint statement.

Dershowitz says he feels "gratified" by the result. "Nobody believes [Giuffre]; her credibility came from her lawyers, and they have withdrawn the accusations," he says.

Edwards and Cassell, however, aren't happy with the way Dershowitz has been spinning the settlement. On Sunday, they issued a statement, which says in part:

Following the announcement of the settlement of defamation claims against Alan Dershowitz, he has been making public statements suggesting that he has prevailed in the lawsuit and that the terms of the settlement exonerate him of any wrongdoing.  Those statements are at best misleading.
It is a mistake for anyone to conclude based upon Mr. Dershowitz's statements that the case against him was abandoned due to lack of factual support. It is a mistake for anyone to conclude based upon Mr. Dershowitz's statements that Bradley Edwards and Paul Cassell had determined that the allegations against Alan Dershowitz made by Virginia Roberts Giuffre were false or unfounded. Neither the terms of the settlement nor the agreed upon joint public statement issued as part of the settlement support any such conclusions, and it is false to state or suggest otherwise.

Pow. Wham. Not sure where this leaves us. It certainly seems that Edwards and Cassell are now backing away from their broader "mistake" remark in the joint statement.

For now, at least, Dershowitz says he's not bothered by that latest comment. Overall, he seems pretty content with the outcome—though he tells me: "Part of me is disappointed because I wanted to have a trial and have evidence come out."

And what has this case cost him? Though Dershowitz says he spent over $1 million on legal fees (insurance covered a chunk of it), he won't disclose if the settlement entails any monetary rewards, citing a confidentiality clause. But he says he's not suffering financially because of the ordeal: "I continue to be sought after; people call me every day for legal work."


Click here for previous posts on Alan Dershowitz.




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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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