For around a decade, Dershowitz kept casual company with Epstein, who introduced him to his friends, like Ghislaine Maxwell, a British heiress who acted as his right hand, and Prince Andrew, whom Epstein called “Andy.” (Dershowitz said he and the prince didn’t end up getting along because they disagreed about Israel.) Dershowitz visited Epstein’s mansions in New York and Palm Beach and occasionally accompanied him on his private plane. Dershowitz says these trips were family-oriented. Once, Epstein lent him the Palm Beach home so he could attend a granddaughter’s soccer tournament. Another time, he and his nephew flew down to watch a space launch with another Epstein connection, a top NASA official. He and Cohen once stayed with Epstein on his island in the Caribbean, where they were joined by another Harvard professor and his family.
When Epstein first started to attract media attention around the year 2000, mainly because of his friendship with former president Bill Clinton, Dershowitz served as a character witness for the reclusive financier. He told Vanity Fair that he shared manuscripts of his books with Epstein before they were published and swore that his money was irrelevant. “I would be as interested in him as a friend if we had hamburgers on the boardwalk in Coney Island and talked about his ideas,” he told the magazine. But Dershowitz says their interactions took a sharp turn in 2005, when Epstein faced a local police investigation into his relations with underage girls in Palm Beach and Epstein hired him as a lawyer. Today, Dershowitz claims they were never really friends despite their proximity.
“He was an acquaintance,” he said. “In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t taken the case, but I didn’t see a problem with taking the case. We didn’t have a close, personal relationship.”
The first phase of Epstein’s legal troubles began when the parents of a 14-year-old girl reported to the Palm Beach police that she had been hired to give him a massage and was then molested. Over the next seven months, according to an investigative series in the Miami Herald, detectives identified 21 potential victims. By that time, Epstein had heard rumors about the investigation and had assembled a legal team, including Dershowitz. In a letter, Epstein’s Palm Beach defense lawyer introduced Dershowitz to prosecutors as “a close friend of Mr. Epstein’s.”
Dershowitz now claims his involvement in the case was superficial. “Remember, I’m a legal-lawyer,” he said, saying his role, as an eminent Harvard professor, was limited to providing “big picture” guidance. But the records of the Palm Beach investigation include a letter from Dershowitz that delves into the seamy details, describing the work of Epstein’s private detectives, and questioning the character of one of his accusers. (It related that her social-media posts showed an “apparent fascination with marijuana.”) “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this letter,” Dershowitz said when I showed it to him. He pointed out that it appeared to have been signed on his authorization by Epstein’s local attorney.
While Dershowitz said that he “was occasionally presented with investigative reports,” he contended that he was under the impression that his client’s accusers were mainly adult women. “He was facing charges for having had sexually oriented massages with mostly 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds, but, as he put it, some 17-year-olds ‘slipped through the cracks,’” Dershowitz said. “When I negotiated with the state attorney, the words 14, 15, 16 never came up.” This is hard to believe. When Epstein was indicted in 2006, the headline in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel was: PALM BEACH RESIDENT FACES SOLICITATION CHARGE; BUSINESSMAN ACCUSED OF SEX WITH MINORS. [Continue reading…]