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A side plot to the Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking case is a sprawling legal battle between Alan Dershowitz and David Boies.
One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Giuffre, accused Dershowitz of having sex with her while she was a minor under Epstein's control. Another says Epstein "directed" her to have sex with Dershowitz.
Both women are being represented by David Boies, the legal legend who fought for gay marriage but whose reputation has been sullied by his associations with Theranos and Harvey Weinstein.
Here's an explanation of the complicated legal clashes between them over Giuffre's claims — and how it's likely to come to a head amid the Epstein case.
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For years, two titans of American law have quietly waged a sprawling legal battle in federal and state courthouses from New York to Florida.
Both are giants of the legal landscape, in the twilight of storied careers full of cases that shaped the course of American history. And both have recently seen their previously stellar reputations sullied by, among other things, close associations with men accused of monstrous sexual misconduct.
In one corner is David Boies, who represented former Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election scrum and successfully fought for marriage equality in California, but whose aggressive tactics in defense of Harvey Weinstein and the fraudulent blood-testing startup Theranos have recently dimmed his prestige.
In the other is Alan Dershowitz, the famed Harvard emeritus professor who helped O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bülow dodge murder convictions. He's facing an allegation of sexual misconduct from at least one victim of his former client and personal friend Jeffrey Epstein, and has defended some of President Trump's most egregious efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation.
At the center of their conflict are two clients of Boies, Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome, who have accused Epstein of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits. But they have also levelled allegations against Dershowitz: Roberts says she repeatedly had sex with the lawyer while held as Epstein's sex slave, and Ransome has said that Epstein directed her to have sex with Dershowitz. Thus far, the allegations against Dershowitz — which he vigorously denies — have largely been a side plot to the baroque array of crimes of which Epstein stands accused. But they have sprouted a thicket of at least four lawsuits and another four bar complaints as the two superlawyers trade blows.
With latest set of sex-trafficking charges against Epstein, the Boies-Dershowitz clash has exploded onto the pages of the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, with high stakes for both of their reputations. Boies is representing victims who have newly come forward, and a federal judge in a separate case may soon unseal thousands of pages of documents that promise to shed new light on Epstein and his circle of powerful people, including Dershowitz.
"[Boies] has a lot to restore in his reputation," Dershowitz told INSIDER.
"Dershowitz is desperate to distract attention from his own conduct," Boies hit back. "It is a smokescreen that doesn't have anything to do with the merits of the case."
Dershowitz helped negotiate Epstein's controversial plea deal in 2008
Epstein is famous for collecting high-profile friends, including presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. He became friendly with Dershowitz in the mid-1990s, and has deep ties to Harvard University, where Dershowitz has been a professor for more than half a century.
In 2006, Dershowitz joined Epstein's legal team as federal prosecutors investigated him for having sex with underage girls.
The deal he helped broker, in 2008, was a sweet one. Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and registered as a sex offender, but ultimately got only 13 months in county jail. He was allowed to go to work six days a week, and had his own private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade.
Alexander Acosta, the federal prosecutor in Florida who agreed to the deal, announced his resignation this month from his job as the Trump administration's labor secretary following a renewed public backlash against the deal.
Read more: A timeline of sexual abuse cases brought against Jeffrey Epstein
Before Dershowitz represented Epstein as an attorney, the two were friends. Flight logs from Epstein's private jet obtained by Gawker show Dershowitz was a passenger as early as 1997. And in 2003, Dershowitz told Vanity Fair that he often asked Epstein to review his book drafts.
Since closing Epstein's deal more than a decade ago, Dershowitz has had hardly any contact with Epstein and hasn't spoken to him "in years," he told INSIDER.
Dershowitz has wavered on whether he regrets getting Epstein off so easily. In 2015, he told the New York Times that he should have turned down Epstein's request to defend him.
"I think I do regret having taken the case in light of everything that has happened since," he said. "If I could give back the money I made in this case and have this episode of my life erased, I'd do it."
More recently, he defended the deal as appropriate based on the evidence prosecutors presented.
"I have no misgivings and I will continue to represent controversial people," he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "My job is to get the best possible result for my client. ... If you don't want to live in a system like that, move to Iran."
Two of Epstein's accusers also accused Dershowitz of misconduct
The deal Epstein struck with Acosta shocked many of his victims, both because of the light sentence, and because its terms were kept secret.
Two lawyers, Brad Edwards, and Paul Cassell, filed a federal lawsuit to undo the deal, arguing that it violated the 2004 Crime Victims' Rights Act because Acosta never notified Epstein's victims.
One of those victims, Virginia Roberts — now named Virginia Giuffre — joined the lawsuit in December 2014. Around this time, Boies, enlisted by one of Giuffre's other attorneys, began representing her pro bono.
To join the lawsuit, Giuffre submitted an affidavit about her experience. It was explosive.
Giuffre claimed that she was recruited as a "sex slave" by Epstein's then-partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, in 2000, when she was working as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach resort. She was 17 years old.
Read more: Inside the relationship of Trump and convicted sex offender Epstein, from party buddies to 'not a fan'
She also accused Dershowitz, as well as Britain's Prince Andrew, of having sex with her in Epstein's residences. Dershowitz and Prince Andrew both denied the allegations.
Dershowitz was incensed. He called Giuffre's lawyers liars, and demanded that they be disbarred for improperly investigating Giuffre's allegations before filing the affidavit. A judge ultimately struck Giuffre's accusations against Dershowitz and Prince Andrew from court records, but the damage was already done. The allegations, and Dershowitz's response, led to a morass of defamation lawsuits between Giuffre's various lawyers and Dershowitz. Those ended in settlements in 2016.
Giuffre's allegations about Dershowitz never led to criminal charges, but Boies's firm has said that Giuffre stands by all of her allegations.
"During the time period that [Giuffre] was being trafficked by Epstein she was forced to have sex with Alan Dershowitz," Boies's firm alleged in a recent lawsuit against Dershowitz. "[Giuffre] was forced to engage in sexual acts with Dershowitz."
Dershowitz told INSIDER that he has never been contacted by law enforcement regarding Giuffre's accusations or those of Sarah Ransome, who came forward last year — a fact that he says means he is not under investigation.
"No responsible prosecutor would ever accuse me" based on Giuffre's allegations, Dershowitz said.
An obscure provision in Epstein's non-prosecution agreement complicates things
The accusations against Dershowitz have potentially raised a novel legal issue: The prospect that Dershowitz helped negotiate his own immunity from prosecution. The deal between Epstein and federal prosecutors didn't just apply to Epstein, according to the Miami Herald. It also granted immunity to four named Epstein associates as well as "any potential co-conspirators" in his crimes.
In a defamation complaint Boies filed against Dershowitz on Giuffre's behalf, he accuses Dershowitz of being one of those potential co-conspirators: "Epstein's multiple victims, including Roberts, were kept in the dark and told to be 'patient' while Dershowitz participated in the drafting of the NPA and worked to protect Epstein and other 'potential co-conspirators' (including himself) from prosecution."
Dershowitz denies this. While he helped secure Epstein's plea bargain, he says, he had no involvement in drafting the non-prosecution agreement.
"Contrary to the allegations made by Giuffre's lawyers, I never negotiated any provision that would have protected me from future prosecution, since I did absolutely nothing that would warrant prosecution," he wrote. The unnamed "potential co-conspirators" in the agreement, he said, refer to "the young girls who were accused of helping him solicit other young girls."
Since Giuffre first leveled her accusations against him in 2014, Dershowitz has taken additional steps to clear his name, including hiring former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate Giuffre's claims against him. Freeh concluded his investigation in 2016 and released a statement saying he "found no evidence to support the accusations of sexual misconduct" and that he did find evidence that "directly contradicted the accusations made against him." (Freeh did not produce a full public report of his investigation, which he says included a review of "thousands of pages of documentary evidence" and interviews with "many witnesses.")
Read more: How Jeffrey Epstein's secret deal a decade ago could affect the sex-trafficking case against him now
And in March 2019, a few months after Ransome came forward, Dershowitz wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal asking the FBI to investigate him, as well as his accusers, so that his name could be cleared.
"All three of us have filed sworn affidavits in federal court," he wrote. "These affidavits are in irreconcilable conflict: I have sworn that I never met either of them; they have both sworn that I engaged in sexual acts with them. Either I have committed perjury or they have."
The legal battle between Dershowitz and Boies have gotten more vicious behind the scenes
Dershowitz has been on the offensive. In an interview with Politico rounding up what prominent political figures were reading, Dershowitz cited "Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou — particularly its reporting on Boies' "ethics" — as a "guilty pleasure." The book recounts how Boies maneuvered to quash Carreyrou's reporting on Theranos, a blood testing company that purported to develop revolutionary technology it didn't have, as well as Boies's unorthodox fee arrangement, in which he took half his pay in the form of stock in the startup.
"He has an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and to challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time," Dershowitz recently told Fox News.
Dershowitz told INSIDER he's reported Boies to authorities for what he says is the unethical way he's handled Giuffre's case.
"I reported Boies to the US attorney's office, to the district attorney's office, and to the FBI," he said. "I have nothing to hide. I have done nothing wrong, period. All of these stories have been made up by Boies' clients."
Read more: A top Democratic lawyer represented the New York Times while simultaneously trying to crush their Harvey Weinstein story
Boies says that Dershowitz's complaints are just an effort to distract from the merits of Giuffre's allegations.
"Instead of dealing with those facts, and that evidence, he wants to create a sideshow to pretending this is somehow a battle between him and me," he told INSIDER. "He is no different than the other people who we have sued here."
Dershowitz has also filed four bar complaints in three states against Boies and other attorneys at his firm, arguing that he's made ethical missteps that should disqualify him in the case.
The complaints, all of which have been dismissed, claim that Boies personally told Dershowitz during a series of recorded phone calls that he didn't believe Giuffre's claims against — something Boies denies ever saying.
Dershowitz provided INSIDER excerpts of what he says is a transcript of those calls. They show Boies admitting that Dershowitz's travel records don't appear to match up with Giuffre's testimony, which would make it "impossible" for him to be at the locations Giuffre claimed. Boies also discusses the possibility that Giuffre confused Dershowitz with someone else. Dershowitz declined to provide the full transcript or audio.
Boies counters that the conversation was based on claims Dershowitz had made about his travels, but that Dershowitz never provided any proof of those claims.
"Despite many opportunities to do so, Mr. Dershowitz was never able to substantiate his assertions that he was never in a location where and when he could have sex with Ms. Giuffre," Boies wrote in an affidavit. "On the contrary… we were increasingly uncovering evidence that was contrary to Mr. Dershowitz's assertions and supportive of Ms. Giuffre's report."
Dershowitz says the allegations all stem from a scheme to get money from the head of Victoria's Secret
If Giuffre is lying, then what's her motive for going after one of the most famous lawyers in America?
According to Dershowitz, Giuffre's claims are part of a secret plot to get a billion dollars from Leslie Wexner, the CEO of the company that owns Victoria's Secret and Epstein's only known client as a money manager.
"Virginia and her lawyers hoped to get $1 billion, B-I-L-L-I-O-N, $1 billion or half of his net worth," Dershowitz claimed in a deposition, describing a mysterious alleged phone call he had received from a friend of Giuffre revealing the plot.
"[Boies] tried to get a billion dollars from Leslie Wexner," Dershowitz told INSIDER. "I think now he's going after revenge. He knows that these accusers are false accusers. He has all the same information I have."
Read more: L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner said he 'regretted' crossing paths with Jeffrey Epstein
According to New York magazine, an affidavit from one of Giuffre's attorneys, Stanley Pottinger, confirms that Wexner "was contacted for a discussion with him and/or his counsel" by an attorney at Boies' firm in December 2014. But Pottinger said that nothing was asked of Wexner other than information, and that no "attempt at extortion had been made or contemplated."
A person familiar with Wexner's connection to Epstein who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter told INSIDER that Wexner never met Giuffre and that no extortion attempt was made. Wexner told his employees this week that he "regretted" crossing paths with Epstein.
In legal documents, Boies's firm called the alleged extortion plot "fabricated."
"Dershowitz, acting in concert with Epstein, intentionally and maliciously released his false and defamatory statements about Giuffre to the media in order to discredit her; to subject her to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, and disgrace; and to intimidate her into silence," one document reads. "Dershowitz's statements compound the victimization Giuffre suffered as a teenager, as well as the trauma that she has been forced to cope with since."
Dershowitz has been running a campaign to discredit his accusers
Dershowitz says that both Giuffre and Ransome have serious credibility issues.
Ransome, he said, has written "100 pages of emails to the New York Post" claiming that "she has sex tapes of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and others" as well as that Hillary Clinton "tried to have her beaten up by the CIA."
Dershowitz declined to show INSIDER those emails, saying they are currently under seal. A representative for the New York Post didn't immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment and there's no evidence such sex tapes exist.
Dershowitz said Giuffre has made outlandish claims and isn't credible, either.
"[Boies] knows that Virginia said that Al Gore and Tipper Gore were on Jeffrey Epstein's island, and he knows that Al Gore never met Jeffrey Epstein. And he's Al Gore's lawyer, so he could easily check that out."
Boies stands behind his clients.
"Alan Dershowitz's absurd attacks on me are consistent with his pattern of attacking every lawyer who has represented women who have accused him of sexual abuse," Boies told the New York Daily News. "This is simply a pattern where he thinks if he is loud enough and crazy enough it will distract attention from what he's done."
Dershowitz publicly urged Giuffre and Ransome to sue him for defamation for calling them liars, saying that the scrutiny of another court case could settle the truth once and for all.
In April of this year, Boies and Giuffre filed a new defamation lawsuit against Dershowitz
Giuffre took him up on the offer. In April, with Boies's firm representing her, she filed a new lawsuit against Dershowitz, alleging that his attempts to discredit her amounted to defamation.
"From the beginning, Dershowitz and Epstein have sought to hide their crimes behind a curtain of lies," the lawsuit alleges. "Only a person seeking to conceal improper conduct would have engaged in the pattern of lies which has characterized Dershowitz's statements since his sex trafficking was revealed."
Dershowitz hired a team of four lawyers to take on the case — including Arthur Aidala, who's also representing Harvey Weinstein, and who represented Roger Ailes and Anthony Weiner against sexual misconduct claims. In June, Dershowitz's lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the case on First Amendment grounds, saying he was right to called Giuffre a liar. The move to short-circuit a full hearing on the facts struck some observers as a bait-and-switch.
"Dershowitz trolled Giuffre into suing and also used his bully pulpit to convey the impression to everyone that the case would be fought on the merits," Eriq Gardner, a legal columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, wrote. "Instead, he's waving the First Amendment flag." (Dershowitz says it was a strategic maneuver.)
The litigation is still ongoing — Dershowitz is currently trying to get Boies' law firm kicked off the case over a conflict-of-interest allegation — and it will likely only get more complicated when Judge Loretta Preska unseals a large cache of previously secret documents from an earlier case involving Giuffre and Maxwell. The records are expected to shed light on Epstein's circle of associates, including Dershowitz, and their awareness of his abusive conduct.
While Dershowitz has sought to aggressively distance himself from Epstein and Giuffre, Boies has found new clients who say they were Epstein's victims. He's now representing at least seven Epstein accusers, with more coming forward.
Boies rejects the suggestion that his work with Epstein's victims have anything to do with burnishing his reputation after representing Weinstein. He told INSIDER that his standing in the legal community hasn't suffered at all.
"The legal profession and, I thought, most people generally understand that principles like the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, and right to a vigorous defense are essential parts to our justice system," he said. "That justice system protects everybody. Once you start deciding who gets the benefit of those protections, you go down a very misguided and dangerous road."
Casey Sullivan contributed to this report.
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