Harvard Law professor and popular criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz is the latest high-profile figure accused of engaging in sexual assault some years ago.
“In a filing in Florida federal court last week, former federal judge Paul Cassell and Florida plaintiffs attorney Bradley Edwards said that their client was forced as a minor by financier Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with several people, including Dershowitz and Britain’s Prince Andrew,” Reuters reported.
But quite unlike how comedian Bill Cosby has handled the accusations against him, Dershowitz came out swinging.
In a sworn affidavit filed on Monday, Dershowitz called the charges against him “totally false” and “outrageous.” He has said he will waive his right to the statute of limitations and request that the attorneys representing his alleged victim file a criminal rape charge against him (at the moment, he is facing only a civil complaint). Dershowitz is seeking the disbarment of his accuser’s representatives and, if he is found innocent of this crime, a criminal charge against his accuser for making a false rape claim.
But the plot thickens from here.
According to a report in The Smoking Gun, Epstein, a wealthy financier who pled guilty to a 2008 felony charge involving underage girls, is particularly well-connected. One of his many powerful connections is former President Bill Clinton.
According to court records, Clinton “frequently flew” with Epstein aboard the investor’s private jet from 2002 to 2005, the year news of the police investigation of Epstein was first reported.
As part of a civil suit filed against Epstein by several of his victims, lawyers for the women floated the possibility of subpoenaing Clinton since he “might well be a source of relevant information” about Epstein’s activities.
While Clinton was never deposed, lawyers obtained Epstein’s computerized phone directory, which included “e-mail addresses for Clinton along with 21 phone numbers for him, including those for his assistant (Doug Band),” according to a court filing.
Somehow, the tangential association of a former United States president with an underage sex slavery ring has failed to pique the interest of the political press. Fancy that.
Who knows whether the accusations against Dershowitz, not to mention a member of the British royal family, are accurate. The lurid details of Epstein’s sexual proclivities and his connections to powerful people certainly leave room for doubt about Dershowitz’s innocence. The coming weeks will be clarifying, and it is prudent at this stage to reserve judgment. Dershowitz’s actions, however, speak to his guiltlessness in this case.
If these accusations are found to be spurious, will the press examine why it seems that we are in the midst of a spate of false accusations of sexual misconduct? From the implosion of the lurid yarn involving a gang rape initiation at the University of Virginia to Lena Dunham’s politically-charged tale of sexual assault, which also now seems a largely fabricated, it appears as though the number of false charges of rape are increasing. A simple review of how these accusations are greeted by the press, with excessive and impulsive credulity, suggests that there is an incentive structure in place for those inclined to level these false charges.
Moreover, those on what Charles C. W. Cooke called the “feminist left” are determined to shun Western principles of jurisprudence and commit to the notion that the accused are guilty until proven innocent.
Amazingly, these presumptions tend to remain intact through thick and thin. In consequence, a person who incorrectly judged the veracity of Rolling Stone’s story can remain on the side of the angels, while a person who was correct to doubt the account is dismissed as a devil who just got lucky. Sure, the zetetics might have been right in a technical, factual, reality-based sense. But that they tried to investigate the matter in the first instance tells us something terrible about their character. And yes, the story may have been completely and utterly wrong. But at least its advocates took a stand for something nice. Did you? Wait, you’re not a rapist, are you?
In 2015, a legitimate claim to victimhood confers the abused with an unassailable moral authority that they could otherwise never achieve with such passé feats such as accomplishment as a result of perseverance and labor. To pretend that the modern media culture does not encourage the construction of victimhood narratives is to reject the empirical conditions around us. Furthermore, as Cooke observes, to merely express deserved skepticism about fantastical accounts of sexual assault is to invite accusations of “victim shaming” or some other modern-day scarlet letter.
In the pursuit of social justice, we have abandoned reverence for legitimate and objective justice. But the last year has been a clarifying one, and perhaps we are at the tipping point. If Dershowitz is innocent, his decision to not only shame his accuser, but to demand that she be criminally charged raises the stakes of the game considerably.