Lawyer Alan Dershowitz is rejecting claims that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein benefited from his connections to powerful people – and is defending Alex Acosta from charges he handed a sweetheart deal to Epstein’s team of legal all-stars.
‘I think in many respects he’s getting a bum rap with the benefit of hindsight,’ Dershowitz told DailyMail.com in an interview after Acosta held a press conference to defend the 2008 no-prosecution deal prosecutors reached with Epstein.
He praised Acosta’s performance at a high-stakes press conference about the Epstein deal Wednesday, although he cautioned: ‘I can’t evaluate how the president felt about it.’
Dershowitz, who was part of the pricey and talented lineup that Epstein assembled to defend himself, also rejected the notion of preferential treatment through Epstein’s connections, who included Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, and Bill Clinton.
‘Totally irrelevant. Prince Andrew is going help him get a good deal?’ he said.
He said of prosecutors: ‘They were making their own determination. It went through several levels [up to the deputy attorney general in Washington]. And it was approved by everybody because there was nothing unusual about it.’
Dershowitz negotiated with Palm Beach authorities for Epstein to avoid jail time – although federal authorities stepped in and ultimately negotiated a guilty plea that had him serve 13 months in a county jail with work release.
Asked if he knew about Epstein’s connections to Trump at the time – the two men have been photographed at Mar-a-Lago – Dershowitz said: ‘I knew he knew him. He once drove me past Mar-a-Lago and said that’s where Donald hangs out. But no, I still don’t know the extent of their relationship,’ Dershowitz said.
‘I know that he was close to Bill Clinton,’ he added. ‘I remember an incident where Clinton was talking to him on the phone while at a party at Martha’s Vineyard. I just remember. I was there. I saw it.’
Dershowitz said he had no knowledge about Epstein being reportedly banned from Mar-a-Lago after allegedly hitting on a young employee.
‘I don’t know anything about that, I never heard of it, no,’ he said.
And he said he didn’t know the basis of Trump’s comment this week that he had a falling out with Epstein. Trump declared himself ‘not a fan’ of Epstein, who federal prosecutors in New York this week charged with trafficking in underage girls.
‘Although it’s in the papers, I don’t know anything beyond what’s in the papers,’ he said.
Dershowitz spoke a day after Acosta defended his role in the Epstein case, stressing that he considered it it critical to have him go to jail and register as a sex offender.
Asked if the federal government had an obligation to keep investigating in other jurisdictions (Epstein owns a mansion in Palm Beach, on the Upper East Side, property in the Virgin Islands and other locales), Dershowitz said: ‘I suspect they did. I have every reason to believe they did … They were doing hard day-to-day investigations and negotiations. They were not trying to give anybody a break here.’
Dershowitz has said he got a massage at Epstein’s residence but never saw anything inappropriate.
He raised concerns about the impact of the incident – Acosta is facing calls for his resignation due to his handling of the case – could impact prosecutors in the future.
‘Not only do I think he’s right, but I think there’s a real danger in going after Acosta. What it’s going to do is send a message to other prosecutors, if you have a weak case, you’re better of bringing it and losing than not bringing it,’ he said.
‘Because you’ll never be criticized if you bring the case and a jury rules against you, a judge rules against you. But if you don’t bring the case you’re going to be pilloried. I think it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on prosecutors to bring weak cases,’ he said.
‘If think I they had [brought] this federal case back then I think they would have lost. I think it would have been dismissed for failure to show a interstate nexus. Remember they have to prove with credible witnesses that he transported an underage girl in interstate commerce,’ Dershowitz said. ‘These young women were all local they were all from around Palm Beach. So I think the state case was very strong and the federal case was very weak.’
Dershowitz also pushed back when asked about a SDNY filing that alleges Epstein took part in obstruction, harassment and witness tampering and mentions his legal team.
‘Of course not. I don’t think any of us would have every participated in anything like that,’ Dershowitz said.
According to the memo filed by New York prosecutors opposing bail for Epstein, ‘there were credible allegations that the defendant engaged in witness tampering, harassment, or other obstructive behaviors.’
‘In fact, according to publicly-filed court documents, there were discussions between prosecutors and the defendant’s then-counsel about the possibility of the defendant pleading guilty to counts relating to ‘obstruction,’ as well as ‘harassment,’ they wrote.