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SALT LAKE CITY — A day after famed attorney Alan Dershowitz went on national TV calling for the disbarment of University of Utah law professor and former federal Judge Paul Cassell, Cassell and his co-counsel have countered with a defamation lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Cassell and Florida attorney Brad Edwards filed a defamation lawsuit in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County, Florida, claiming Dershowitz engaged in "character assassination" against them in national media interviews, and acted in "willful, wanton, reckless, and intentional disregard" of the two attorneys.
For six years, Cassell and Edwards have represented two women, known only as Jane Does No. 1 and 2, in a civil lawsuit against the U.S. government. The suit stems from a criminal investigation involving Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire Wall Street investor accused of prostituting underage girls.
Epstein was convicted on relatively minor state charges and served just over a year in jail starting in 2008. He is now a registered sex offender. Dershowitz was a member of Epstein's defense team.
On Friday, Cassell and Edwards filed documents in a Florida federal court asking that two more women, listed only as Jane Doe #3 and Jane Doe #4, be allowed to join the lawsuit already filed by Jane Does #1 and #2.
The women claim they were underage sex slaves for Epstein more than a decade ago. Jane Doe #3 claims she was also forced to have sex with several high-profile people including Dershowitz and the Duke of York, Britain's Prince Andrew. Neither are named as defendants in any criminal charges or civil suits.
Both Dershowitz and Andrew have emphatically denied the claims. While the Duke of York has responded in prepared statements issued from Buckingham Palace, Dershowitz made the rounds on television outlets such as the "Today" show and CNN.
The suit by Cassell and Edwards calls Dershowitz's TV appearances a "massive public media assault on the reputation and character" of the two attorneys.
In their suit, the attorneys say Dershowitz spoke "without ever conducting any investigation of the credibility of the accusations, and of having acted unethically to the extent that their willful misconduct warranted and required disbarment."
The attorneys contend that Dershowitz's statements "were false and known by him to be false at the time they were made."
"Alternatively, Dershowitz made the statements in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity, intending that the statements would provide support for Dershowitz's false protestations of his own innocence and direct attention away from Dershowitz's personal knowledge of and involvement in Epstein's criminal conduct and the subsequent coverup of that misconduct. Dershowitz's statements were and are defamatory per se directly attacking the fitness of the plaintiffs to engage in the honored profession of the practice of law," the two attorneys wrote.
Dershowitz's statements were and are defamatory per se directly attacking the fitness of the plaintiffs to engage in the honored profession of the practice of law.
–Bradley J. Edwards and Paul G. Cassell
Cassell released a statement from Jane Doe No. 3 on Monday that said she is "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."
Dershowitz, meanwhile, told "Today" host Matt Lauer that adding his name to the motions filed on Friday was the legal equivalent to writing something on a bathroom wall and walking away. On Monday, Dershowitz threatened defamation suits of his own.
"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."