The story behind a Palm Beach sex offender’s remarkable deal

Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been a free man, despite sexually abusing dozens of underage girls according to police and prosecutors. His victims have never had a voice, until now.

Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been a free man, despite sexually abusing dozens of underage girls according to police and prosecutors. His victims have never had a voice, until now.

The first salvos in a federal court case pitting two of the nations most powerful lawyers against each other were heard Tuesday in New York, as famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued that his Twitter attacks against a woman accusing him of sexual abuse are protected free speech.

The defamation case promises to provide lurid new details about Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case, including whether other powerful men were involved in procuring young women from Epstein for sex. Among the names thrown out at the hearing Tuesday was Leslie Wexner, owner of Victoria’s Secret, whom Dershowitz said will be called as a witness should the case go to trial.

Dershowitz, 80, is being sued by Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that, when she was underage, she was repeatedly directed by Epstein to have sex with Dershowitz. Dershowitz represented Epstein and successfully helped him escape federal sex trafficking charges in Florida in 2008.

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Virginia Giuffre says she was recruited by Epstein when she was 16 and stayed with him until she was 19. She said Epstein promised to fix anything that was wrong in her life and the lives of other young women drawn into his world.

Emily Michot

During the hearing, Dershowitz’s lawyers alleged that Giuffre has said in court papers that she was forced to have sex with Wexner, chairman of the Limited Brands, which includes Victoria’s Secret. Dershowitz claims that Giuffre’s allegations against him were fabricated as part of an elaborate attempt by one of her lawyers, David Boies, to extort Wexner, now 82.

On Twitter and in other the media, Dershowitz has repeatedly called Giuffre “a liar, a perjurer and an extortionist,’’ Dershowitz’s attorney, Howard Cooper conceded in open court. But the Harvard law professor’s recent comments, particularly those on Twitter, are not libelous, he said, because they were the same statements the Harvard law professor has leveled against Giuffre for many years.

Because Giuffre failed to sue him when he first made the comments, four years ago, she cannot now argue that she was defamed by recent comments he has posted on Twitter, Cooper said. The comments in 2015 are beyond the statute of limitations, he said.

U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Prescott, however, was skeptical of the argument, questioning Cooper on whether the law of defamation gives people the right to repeat potentially libelous statements for eternity.

“Here we have a defendant saying it again and saying it again and saying it again,’’ Prescott said, adding later, “So once you’re on the internet you are immune?’’

She did not make a ruling.

Sigrid McCawley, a senior partner with the New York powerhouse law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, said Dershowitz’s Twitter audience is not the same audience, and even if it was, his recent statements are different in substance than those he made four years ago.

Dershowitz is trying to have the defamation suit thrown out and, failing that, have the firm, founded by Boies, removed as Giuffre’s lawyers.

Giuffre’s allegations that she had sex with Dershowitz and other men at the age of 17 were revealed as part of a 2014 court case. Dershowitz, who frequently appears on television as a constitutional expert and political commentator, publicly attacked Giuffre and her attorneys, and has also filed several unsuccessful bar complaints against Boies and McCawley.

“I welcome this lawsuit because everything in the complaint is false and I will be able to disprove all of this in a court of law,’’ Dershowitz told the Miami Herald at the time.

This story will be updated.

Miami Herald staff writer Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report.

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