Lawyers opposing Law School professor emeritus Alan M. Dershowitz in a pair of defamation suits admitted fault in accusing him of having sex with an underage woman, formally putting to rest allegations levied against the former professor since December 2014.
The settlement is the culmination of a year-long saga that began in December 2014, when attorneys Paul G. Cassell and Bradley J. Edwards filed sexual misconduct charges against Dershowitz as part of a civil case in a Florida circuit court. Cassell and Edwards alleged that Dershowitz had sexual relations with their client—who was originally referred to as “Jane Doe No. 3”—when she was a minor.
Dershowitz publicly denied the allegations and filed a motion to intervene in the case, as well as a separate lawsuit against the two lawyers for defamation. Cassell and Edwards filed their defamation suit in response, arguing that comments Dershowitz made in media appearances harmfully called into question their ability to practice law.
Last April, a Florida federal judge struck the allegations of sexual misconduct against Dershowitz from the record of the original civil suit. Dershowitz also turned over all of his records to former FBI chief Louis J. Freeh, who launched an investigation with several former agents and concluded that Dershowitz could not have been at the locations where the civil suit alleges he had sex with “Jane Doe No. 3.”
In a statement last week discussing the findings of his investigation, Freeh wrote, “The totality of the evidence found during the investigation refutes the allegations made against Professor Dershowitz.”
Civil court mediator Jeffrey E. Streitfeld negotiated a settlement for the defamation suits and released a statement outlining its terms on April 8. Edwards and Cassell agreed to drop all allegations against Dershowitz, acceding that it was “a mistake” to accuse Dershowitz of misconduct in the first place, according to the statement. Dershowitz dropped his accusations that the lawyers had behaved unethically.
“I feel completely gratified by the result,” Dershowitz said in an interview. “They have acknowledged that they made a mistake and they have withdrawn all the charges.”
Dershowitz said he has challenged the complainant to come forward and admit the allegations were false, but said she is unlikely to do so since she could be arrested for perjury—a felony offense. It remains unclear whether Cassell and Edwards will face consequences, but Dershowitz said his involvement in the matter has ended.
“As far as I’m concerned, this matter is over. It’s resolved. The last 15 months have been torture for me and my family,” he said.
Dershowitz said he thinks his experience highlights a need for a “fair process” in cases of sexual assault that balances the rights of the plaintiffs and the accused.
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