Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Emeritus, has adamantly denied accusations that he engaged in sexual relations with an underage woman, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe #3. The allegations stem from a civil filing before a federal district court in Southern Florida that challenges the plea deal offered to Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who was sentenced to 18 months in prison, of which he served 13 months, for soliciting prostitution. Dershowitz was a member of the legal team that negotiated Epstein’s plea deal.
Two Harvard Law students—Anna Joseph, 2L, and Kerry Richards, 1L—wrote a piece to the Record that charged Dershowitz with victim-blaming a child involved in trafficking. Joseph and Richards criticized the “trivialization of sex trafficking by victimizers and by the media at large” and questioned why Dershowitz’s courage has been commended while Jane Doe #3’s experience has been discounted.
After reading the piece, Professor Dershowitz felt compelled to respond in an opinion piece to the Record. In it, he criticizes Joseph and Richards’ comments as “trivializ[ing] the seriousness of being falsely accused of a heinous crime such as child rape.” The piece also counters specific allegations made by Jane Doe #3.
“Of course I am sympathetic to actual victims of abuse, rape, and trafficking,” Dershowitz said in an interview with the Record. “But in this case, I am the victim. She made up the story. This is not a matter of perception—it is a matter of black and white. It simply did not happen.”
Joseph and Richard’s opinions have even prompted a response from Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense lawyer and civil liberties litigator who graduated from HLS in 1967. Silverglate asserts that the piece is a “disservice,” as the authors “appear to have little regard for the painful, somewhat Kafkaesque conundrum of Dershowitz’s position.”
“When I read the student‐authored piece in the Record, I thought it unfair to Dershowitz,” Silverglate told the Record over email. “He had been the victim of a quite awful attack accusing him of having perpetrated a heinous and disgusting attack.”
Silverglate’s letter, which was not written in any consultation with Dershowitz, focused on the failures in the legal system that allow formalistic accusations without the opportunity to respond in a legal capacity.
“My sense is that we are now in an era when allegations of sexual abuse, especially child sexual abuse, are taken as true, even beyond question, by too many people and even media people,” Silverglate said. “I’ve had cases in which I’ve seen this first-hand. I am calling for a return to due process protections in cases involving such accusations.”
Silverglate further noted that due process would not help Dershowitz in this situation since he has no standing to defend himself in court.
In a joint statement to the Record, Joseph and Richards said, “Our article does not opine on Mr. Dershowitz’s role in Jane Doe #3’s prolonged abuse—his involvement remains unknown. The issue is with the ancillary comments Mr. Dershowitz made while denying his involvement, including that when Doe was fifteen-years-old she was a ‘prostitute,’ and ‘made her own decisions in life.’ His op-ed in the Harvard Law Record does not address concerns about those statements. Instead he just implies that once above a certain age, victims of child trafficking should stop discussing their experiences; and that you can cross any line to try to protect your reputation.”
In additional to the pending federal lawsuit, the plaintiff’s lawyers have initiated a lawsuit against Professor Dershowitz for defamation. As for what is next, Dershowitz has countersued for defamation and is confident in his chances and will also push for further punishment.
“When I establish—as I will—that they have no basis of making this charge, I will move to administrative sanctions.”