By Trevor Aaronson
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
For years, the story of South Florida billionaire money manager Jeffrey Epstein — involving allegations of human trafficking, an international underage sex ring, a Palm Beach mansion, a private island in the Caribbean, and an FBI investigation — has been tabloid fodder in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Now, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Brad Edwards is helping to write a new chapter in this murky and sordid tale. Representing two alleged victims identified only as Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4, Edwards filed a motion in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach that alleges well-known criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, were involved in Epstein’s international sex ring.
“There’s absolutely no kernel of truth to this story,” said Dershowitz, who represented Epstein. “I don’t know this woman. I’ve never been in the same place with her. She’s made up the whole story completely from whole cloth.”
Edwards’ motion requests that his new clients join the case of two other alleged victims — identified as Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2 in court records — who are attempting to use the Crime Victims’ Rights Act to force the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute Epstein for sex trafficking of children by fraud and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor to commit prostitution, among other offenses.
A wealthy Wall Street money manager who had once attempted to purchase New York magazine, Epstein traveled the world in circles that included President Bill Clinton and businessman Donald Trump. Despite his vast fortune and mansion in Palm Beach, Epstein kept a low profile and wasn’t a regular in the wealthy island’s social scene.
The low profile vanished in 2005, when a woman contacted the Palm Beach police fearing that Epstein had molested her 14-year-old daughter. The girl told detectives she’d been invited to Epstein’s mansion, where she was paid $300 after stripping to her underwear and massaging Epstein as he masturbated. Police then located a community college student who gave a sworn statement that she had taken six girls, all between the ages of 14 and 16, to Epstein.
Police referred the case to the FBI. In September 2007, Dershowitz helped Epstein negotiate a then-secret non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which deferred to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office for criminal charges, court records show.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution with a minor and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence.
After his conviction, Epstein’s story grew even more bizarre, with anonymous women accusing him in federal court of conspiring with Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late British media baron Robert Maxwell, to operate an international underage sex ring.
Sex trafficking claims
Edwards, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer, and Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who now teaches law at the University of Utah, filed a Jane Doe lawsuit against the U.S. government in July 2008, alleging that that Epstein had committed crimes against their clients, including sex trafficking of children by fraud.
The case, which has been pending for more than six years before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, initially involved two women, identified as Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2, who said they were sexually abused by Epstein and trafficked as minors.
On Dec. 30, 2014, Edwards asked to have two new accusers added to the case — identified as Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4.
Jane Doe #3 alleges in the court filing that Maxwell and Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” from 1999 through 20002, when she escaped to an unspecified foreign country.
Epstein forced Jane Doe #3, who was then a minor, to have sex with politically connected and wealthy people, the court filing alleges.
“Epstein’s purpose in ‘lending’ Jane Doe [along with other young girls] to such powerful people [was] to ingratiate himself with them for business, personal, political and financial gain, as well as to obtain blackmail information,” the filing alleges.
Jane Doe #3 identifies one of the men she was forced to have sex with as Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor and high-profile criminal defense lawyer.
“Dershowitz was an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of many other minors by Epstein and several of Epstein’s co-conspirators,” the filing alleges.
Dershowitz denied the claims, describing them as part of an extortion plot. He called the filing “the sleaziest legal document I have ever seen.”
“They manipulated a young, suggestible woman who was interested in money,” Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz said he intends to file complaints against Edwards and Cassell. “This is a disbarrable offense, and they will be disbarred,” Dershowitz said. “They will rue the day they ever made this false charge against me.”
Knowingly making defamatory statements in court records can be grounds for disbarment. Jack Thompson, a Miami lawyer who campaigned against violent video games and the group 2 Live Crew, was disbarred for professional misconduct that included making defamatory statements.
“We’re not commenting on the story beyond our legal pleading,” Cassell said.
Prince Andrew mentioned
In the most recent court filing, Jane Doe #3 alleges that Epstein forced her to have sex with “many other powerful men, including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders.”
The filing names Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, as one of those world leaders.