Media groups are contesting an effort by Alan Dershowitz to close part of the oral arguments before the Second Circuit in the ongoing litigation over the handling of the case of his former client, Jeffrey Epstein (left), who was an alleged sex trafficker for powerful men ranging from Bill Clinton to Dershowitz himself. Dershowitz has denied the allegations of one of Epstein’s alleged victims that she was coerced into having sex with Dershowitz.
The letter raises the issue of how Dershowitz will make reference to sealed material and raises the need to exclude the public and media. It presents an interesting dilemma for the court and the parties. Ordinarily, a party seeking to use sealed material in oral argument will make a motion to seal or partially seal the proceedings — or seek the unsealing of the information. Alternatively, a sealed brief can be filed and oral argument confined to public information.
I have previously criticized the handling of the case against Epstein and recently called upon Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign in light of the findings of a federal court that he violated federal law in giving Epstein a ridiculously light plea deal. The deal came as various powerful figures were being named at travelers on Epstein’s infamous “Lolita Express” flights to his private estate on the Caribbean island of Little Saint James with young girls who allegedly were used as prostitutes. Epstein was known for his preference for young women and powerful figures like Clinton were repeat guests.
Despite a strong case for prosecution, Epstein’s lawyers, including Dershowitz and Ken Starr, were able to secure an absurd deal with prosecutors. He was accused of abusing abused more than forty minor girls (with many between the ages of 13 and 17). Sasse is correct, the handling of the case is a disgrace but it is unlikely to result in any real punishment. Certainly not for Epstein who pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge of felony solicitation of underage girls in 2008 and served a 13-month jail sentence. Moreover, to my lasting surprise, the Senate approved the man who cut that disgraceful deal, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, as labor secretary. The Senate did not seem to care that Acosta betrayed these victims and protected a serial abuser. In other words, everyone was protected–the powerful Johns, Epstein, the prosecutors–just not the victims who were never consulted before Epstein got his sweetheart deal.
Acosta’s career did not suffer. To the contrary, he flourished and even ended up with a cabinet position.
After the deal, it was revealed that not only did Clinton take the “Lolita Express” more than previously stated but that he notably told his Secret Service details not to come on the trips to what some called “Orgy Island.” Clinton was not the only fan of Epstein.
Dershowitz maintains that the allegation against him is facially untrue and that sealed material prove them to be untrue. Two women reportedly claims that they were underage when Epstein directed them to have sex with Dershowitz and other powerful men. One of the alleged victims is Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who sue the former girlfriend of Epstein in New York. Dershowitz insists that he has records that refute details of the allegations. Dershowitz has sought to unseal a select number of sealed documents.
Oral arguments are scheduled Wednesday over media demands to see seal documents. This include filings by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 32 other media companies, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Dow Jones, Fox News, Gannett, Politico, Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting and Tribune Publishing Co.
Dershowitz insists that his letter was simply notifying the court that his argument could touch on sealed matters. Media groups have objected that it is an effort to exclude the public and Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, called Dershowitz’s request comes across more as a “veiled threat.”