Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz filed a libel lawsuit against Netflix on Wednesday over the way he was presented in a documentary series about dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Filthy Rich, which began streaming late last May, features a series of interviews with Dershowitz. In one interview, the famed celebrity defense attorney defends the government’s 2008 secret sweetheart plea deal in which Epstein avoided federal sex trafficking charges and unnamed co-conspirators were able to obtain immunity.
The lawsuit, however, doesn’t focus on the plea deal–but does reference the deal as relevant background information explaining Dershowitz’s decision to participate in the series.
“Professor Dershowitz helped negotiate a plea bargain in which Epstein agreed to plead guilty to a charge of soliciting prostitution under Florida state law,” the filing notes at one point. “Epstein was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, and upon release, had to register as a sex offender. Epstein also agreed to settle all future civil lawsuits filed against him by alleged victims.”
Another section of the lawsuit explains:
Filthy Rich primarily portrays Epstein as a bad person, a pedophile without remorse who deserved to be locked up for a long time, and his “victims” as emotionally damaged young women whose Crime Victims Rights Act (“CVRA”) lawsuit brought about an overturning of the 2008 federal plea deal that Professor Dershowitz, with some other reputable lawyers, had negotiated with the Department of Justice for Epstein (and that the “victims” had viewed as outrageously lenient in resulting in less than 18 months jail time that included work release hours).
. . .
Filthy Rich is told largely through the interviews of the former Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter, CVRA attorney Brad Edwards, Boies Schiller and victims’ attorney Sigrid McCawley and a number of the “victims,” including [Virginia Roberts] Giuffre. Numerous times in Filthy Rich, Giuffre is shown in interviewed comments. Professor Dershowitz is interviewed to defend the 2008 plea bargain and to deny Giuffre’s accusation that by arrangement through Epstein, Giuffre had sex with Professor Dershowitz six times.
The lawsuit is largely concerned with how the documentary treats Virginia Giuffre’s claims and Dershowitz’s response to those claims.
According to the complaint, director Lisa Bryant “proceeded to have many conversations” with Dershowitz about appearing in the series over the course of several months in early 2019.
“In these conversations, Bryant repeatedly and expressly promised to put in the Netflix Epstein series all the evidence that Professor Dershowitz presented to her disproving Giuffre’s allegations against Professor Dershowitz,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit goes on to list five specific pieces of evidence that Dershowitz says refutes Giuffre’s claims and alleges that Bryant “expressly promised” to include each piece of evidence in the series.
Those pieces of evidence are listed as follows:
(i) the email correspondence between Giuffre and [journalist Sharon] Churcher that clearly established that Giuffre and Professor Dershowitz had not had sex or even met; (ii) Giuffre’s book manuscript, which discussed giving massages and having sex with Epstein and certain other individuals, but did not identify Professor Dershowitz as someone with whom she had sex; (iii) the tape recording in which [attorney David] Boies acknowledged that Giuffre was wrong to accuse Professor Dershowitz and that Professor Dershowitz could not possibly have had sex with Giuffre; (iv) the tape recording by Rebecca Boylan of an interview with Giuffre, in which Giuffre never mentioned having sex with Professor Dershowitz but rather, explained that she (Giuffre) was being pressured to accuse Professor Dershowitz of having sex with her; and (v) the investigation by [former FBI director] Louis Freeh that concluded there was no evidence supporting the accusation that Professor Dershowitz had sex with Giuffre.
“Contrary to Defendants’ express promises, the Netflix Epstein series Filthy Rich did not include any of the material that Professor Dershowitz had provided Bryant for inclusion with respect to Giuffre,” the lawsuit notes. “Moreover, Defendants purposefully excluded all portions of Professor Dershowitz’s interviews wherein this evidence was discussed/referenced.”
As a result of those omissions, Dershowitz claims that Netflix “thus provided a one-sided narrative deliberately supportive of Giuffre, and in that context, published Giuffre’s defamatory accusation that Professor Dershowitz had sex with her, and deliberately, knowingly, and intentionally presented such allegation (and Giuffre herself) as credible and well-supported,” according to the lawsuit.
“[The] omissions were not a simple reflection of editorial judgment, but rather, indicate a malicious, deliberate, knowing, conscious publication of defamatory accusations, by witnesses known by Defendants to be non-credible, edited and presented in such a manner to bolster the credibility of the accusers and preclude any consideration of relevant, material, exculpatory evidence, thus constituting defamation as well as defamation by implication,” the lawsuit continues.
But it wasn’t just that the series didn’t include Dershowitz’s preferred evidence. The lawsuit also claims the general manner in which the allegations were presented was defamatory.
“Dershowitz’s denial and Giuffre’s accusation, which accusation is included in the Brad Edwards CVRA lawsuit, come off as a ‘he said/she said’ conflict,” the lawsuit notes. “It wasn’t a ‘he said/she said’ situation, however, given Professor Dershowitz’s totality of the evidence establishing he never had sex with Giuffre.”
Additionally, the lawsuit argues that because “the story jumps around chronologically,” the accusations by Giuffre against Dershowitz in the series “appear to carry some credibility.”
“A year dating of events appears on the screen before segments, but the segments themselves do not occur in chronological order,” the lawsuit notes before arguing: “Had the story been told in a strict chronological sequence, it would have been evident that Giuffre’s years with Epstein, 1999-2002, occurred about five years before Professor Dershowitz started working on defending Epstein for what would be the 2008 federal plea deal.”
The lawsuit names Netflix, Bryant and several other producers and production companies as defendants on libel, breach of contract, and fraudulent inducement grounds, as well as one count of promissory estoppel. Dershowitz is seeking at least $80 million in damages.
A spokesperson for Netflix issued a brief statement in response to the filing to The Hollywood Reporter: “Mr. Dershowitz’s lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our partners and the series.”
The lawsuit was filed one day after Dershowitz won a major procedural victory against CNN in an ongoing defamation lawsuit over the way the network selectively edited comments of his in defense of former president Donald Trump during his first impeachment.
Read the original petition in full below:
[image via Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]
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