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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most prominent lawyers in the country had strong words Monday for University of Utah law professor and former federal Judge Paul Cassell.
But Cassell and another attorney responded in kind in a case that also involves a member of the British royal family.
"These lawyers engaged in unethical behavior and should be disbarred," an angry Alan Dershowitz said on NBC's "Today" show. Dershowitz was responding to allegations that he had sexual relations with a then 15-year-old girl who was a "sex slave" for businessman Jeffrey Epstein.
"Totally false and made up," he said emphatically. "I've never seen her. I've never met her. I don't know who she is. And her lawyers have to know this. Her lawyers, Paul Cassell, a former federal judge, and Brad Edwards, deliberately and willfully filed this inter-pleading which they knew I had no opportunity to respond to in court without doing any investigation.
"If they simply investigated the manifests of the airplanes, if they had checked my travel records, if they had asked me and I could have given them the names of these people who were witnesses, they would know the story is totally, completely false."
Cassell and Edwards responded with a joint statement.
"Out of respect for the court’s desire to keep this case from being litigated in the press, we are not going to respond at this time to specific claims of indignation by anyone. As you may know, we are litigating a very important case, not only for our clients but crime victims in general," the two attorneys wrote.
"We have been informed of Mr. Dershowitz's threats based on the factual allegations we have made in our recent filing. We carefully investigate all of the allegations in our pleadings before presenting them. We have also tried to depose Mr. Dershowitz on these subjects, although he has avoided those deposition requests. Nevertheless, we would be pleased to consider any sworn testimony and documentary evidence Mr. Dershowitz would like to provide which he contends would refute any of our allegations."
For the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.
–Buckingham Palace statement
On Friday, Cassell and Edwards filed documents in a Florida federal court asking that two women, listed only as Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4, be allowed to join a civil lawsuit already filed by Jane Does #1 and #2.
The suit stems from a criminal investigation involving Epstein, a billionaire Wall Street investor. He was arrested in 2005 for allegedly prostituting an underage girl.
Epstein was convicted on relatively minor state charges, served just over a year in jail starting in 2008, and is now a registered sex offender. Dershowitz, who is best known for defending O.J. Simpson, was a member of Epstein's defense team.
Two women, who claim they were underage sex slaves for Epstein, filed a federal lawsuit more than six years ago against the U.S. government claiming their civil rights were violated.
"She alleged that Jeffrey Epstein had sexually abused her and that the United States had entered into a secret non-prosecution agreement regarding those crimes in violation of her rights," according to court documents.
Now, Cassell and Edwards want to add two more women to the suit. Jane Doe #3 claims that "Epstein kept (her) as his sex slave from about 1999 through 2002, when she managed to escape to a foreign country and hide out from Epstein and his co-conspirators for years," the court motion states.
The woman claims she was also forced to have sex with the Duke of York, Britain's Prince Andrew; Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite; and French model scout Jean Luc Brunel, according to court records.
Since Friday, Buckingham Palace has made the unusual step of issuing three statements denying the claims against Prince Andrew.
"It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with (the woman). The allegations made are false and without any foundation," one statement says.
“For the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue," another statement issued by Buckingham Palace says.
Jane Doe #4 claims that she was 16 in 2002 when Epstein started to sexually abuse her.
Neither Epstein nor Andrew is named in the civil suit. But NBC News reported that Epstein's lawyers issued a statement over the weekend proclaiming: "These are stale, rehashed allegations that lawyers are now attempting to repackage and spice up by adding the names of prominent people. The allegations, which are outlandish on their face and discredited by the evidence, were made in a civil case in which Mr. Epstein is not a party."
Totally false and made up. I've never seen her. I've never met her. I don't know who she is. And her lawyers have to know this. Her lawyers, Paul Cassell, a former federal judge, and Brad Edwards, deliberately and willfully filed this inter-pleading which they knew I had no opportunity to respond to in court without doing any investigation.
–Alan Dershowitz said on NBC's "Today" show
Cassell released a statement from Jane Doe #3 on Monday. She said, "I am looking forward to vindicating my rights as an innocent victim and pursuing all available recourse. It appears that I am now being unjustly victimized again. These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change. I'm not going to be bullied back into silence."
Still, Dershowitz had angry words for Cassell on "Today" and dared both him and Jane Doe #3 to publicly reiterate their claims.
"The woman has said she wants a full investigation, I welcome a full investigation. I'm not trying to silence her. I've challenged her to repeat the statement to the press so that I can sue for defamation. She has repeated the statements about the prince. She has studiously refused to produce the statements about me. I have challenged her to file rape criminal charges against me because if she does she exposes herself to criminal prosecution," he said.
"I have challenged the lawyers to repeat these statements in public so there can be a defamation hearing. They want to just throw the stink bomb and then avoid any responsibility. They will not get away with this. … The truth will come out and it will show these two unethical lawyers should be disbarred. I am completely, absolutely innocent of any and all charges," Dershowitz said.
Because Dershowitz was not named directly as a party in any criminal or civil suit, he said he was not given a chance to defend himself.
"Because they filed a paper in which they didn't ask to try and prove it. They didn't say we want to try and prove it. They just threw it in there. It's the legal equivalent of scribbling something on a toilet stall and then running away. They didn't think there would be any response. And they will rue the day that they filed this unethical complaint because they, I believe, will be disbarred," he said.
Cassell and Edwards said they wouldn't have even brought up the allegations if the government had not denied their initial request for the two additional women to be added to the lawsuit.
"We intend only to litigate the relevant issues in court and not to play into any sideshow. We feel that is in our clients’ best interest and consequently that is what we are doing," the attorneys said in their statement.
Cassell said a letter was sent to Dershowitz on Saturday inviting him to give testimony.
"Statements attributed to you in the public media express a willingness, indeed a strong desire, to submit to questioning under oath regarding your alleged knowledge of Jeffrey Epstein's extensive abuse of underage females as well as your alleged personal participation in those activities. As I am sure you will recall, our efforts to arrange such a deposition previously were unsuccessful, so we welcome your change of heart," the letter states.
"Kindly bring with you all documentary and electronic evidence which you believe tends to refute the factual allegations made concerning you … as well as passport pages reflecting your travels during the past 10 years and copies of all photographs taken while you were a traveling companion or house guest of Jeffrey Epstein's."
Contributing: Sandra Yi