Bench Memos

In Defense of Alan Dershowitz

I’ve already posted (and briefly commented on) Alan Dershowitz’s letter responding to my post last week about the sexual allegations that have been made against him. I’ve also now received the following letter from Mitch Webber. Mr. Webber informs me that he worked for Dershowitz, including on the Jeffrey Epstein matter, as a research assistant in law school and for several months following his graduation in 2006, and that, although he hasn’t been on the legal team since the end of 2006, he has kept up on the Epstein matter through the publicly available filings and news articles. Here’s his letter:

Dear Mr. Whelan:

You acknowledge Mr. Dershowitz’s unequivocal denial, under oath, that “never under any circumstances ha[s he] ever had any sexual contact of any kind . . . with Jane Doe #3.”  Yet you object to the remainder of Mr. Dershowitz’s declaration, claiming that he mischaracterized the geographic scope of Jane Doe #3’s allegations.

Your criticism is based on a literal reading of the phrase “not only in Florida but also on private planes, in New York, New Mexico, and the U.S. Virgin Island.”  Mr. Dershowitz’s itemized refutations address the most plausible meaning of each allegation, based on the context in which Jane Doe #3’s single-sentence accusation is made, including ten years of prior litigation in the instant and related matters.  For example, you complain that “Jane Doe #3’s allegation against Dershowitz refers generally to ‘the U.S. Virgin Islands,’ not to ‘Mr. Epstein’s Caribbean island.’”  But in all related prior and pending proceedings, every allegation related to the U.S. Virgin Islands, including those in the Motion to Intervene in which the Dershowitz allegation appears, concerns only the U.S. Virgin Island owned by Mr. Epstein.

It is simply not true that Mr. Dershowitz was attempting to deny less than what was alleged.  Mr. Dershowitz’s declaration was written for a court familiar with the context of the allegation.  You should have extended him the courtesy of reading his declaration in that light, especially following his response to your initial post, in which he reiterated his full and unambiguous denial that he did not have sex “with Jane Doe 3, any other Jane Does, or any other underage human being anywhere in the world, including all the places mentioned by Whelan.”


Mitch Webber

I happily plead guilty to a “literal reading” of the allegations. That said, I agree that Mr. Webber’s account/theory is very plausible, and I think that it fits with the alternative explanation that I’ve offered—that Dershowitz “was just being sloppy.” Or, to make the point somewhat more charitably, the aspects of Dershowitz’s declaration that I’ve found peculiar may simply illustrate the perils of serving as one’s own lawyer. (As the adage puts it, a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.) Given his intimate familiarity with the Epstein litigation, Dershowitz might reasonably believe that the specific allegations must have the specific narrower meaning that he gives them. A lawyer with more distance from the litigation might have advised him to make that assumption explicit (for the sake of readers unfamiliar with the Epstein litigation) rather than seem to mischaracterize the specific allegations.

As I hope was sufficiently clear from my previous posts, I agree with Mr. Webber that Dershowitz’s unequivocal blanket denial necessarily encompasses a denial of the specific allegations.


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