Attorneys for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein claim in a new court filing that the billionaire financier will be "irreparably harmed" if emails and letters his lawyers sent to federal prosecutors during plea negotiations are made public, and they're asking a judge to order that the correspondence remain sealed.
Epstein's legal brief, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida late Monday by attorneys Roy Black and Martin Weinberg, represents his first formal statements since explosive allegations emerged last month that he had forced a then-17-year-old girl to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew and other powerful men.
Epstein's court filing is peppered with references to "the gossip media," and "grocery store tabloids" and contains thinly-veiled accusations that the lawyers for recognized victims of Epstein's alleged sexual crimes are feeding a media frenzy.
"This is a widely watched and reported case," the court motion states. "Mr. Epstein and a host of other individuals have been the subject of the most outlandish and offensive attacks, allegations, and plain inventions."
Virginia Roberts, 31, recently reignited worldwide interest in Epstein's controversial non-prosecution agreement when she claimed in court documents that Epstein had kept her for sex for years as a teenager, and -- in turn -- trafficked her for sex with a host of his prominent associates, including three times with Prince Andrew, the middle son of Queen Elizabeth II, and at least six times with longtime Harvard legal professor, Alan Dershowitz.
In an affidavit filed last week, Roberts offered to appear before the court for sworn testimony and vowed to "pursue all reasonable and legitimate means to have criminal charges brought against these powerful men for the crimes they have committed against me and other girls."
Both the prince and Dershowitz have strenuously denied the allegations.
"Every single word in her affidavit about me is a deliberate and categorical lie," Dershowitz told ABC News in an interview last week, and he also filed a sworn declaration in court asserting that he had never even met Roberts.
Dershowitz said he wants Roberts to come forward with dates and times on their alleged encounters so he can use his travel records to prove his innocence, he said. "She picked on the wrong innocent person, because I have the will, the determination and the resources to fight back and prove that what she's saying is false," he said.
Buckingham Palace issued a strongly worded statement on behalf of the prince, categorically denying Roberts' allegations as "false and without foundation." And then the prince himself, speaking last week before an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, referred vaguely to the "events that have taken place in the last few weeks," before saying that he wished to "reiterate and reaffirm the statements" already made by the Palace.
Roberts made her claims in court as she seeks to join a case filed by two other women against the U.S. government. Those women contend that the deal with Epstein violated their rights as crime victims to be consulted and treated with fairness in the administration of justice. Epstein is not a party to the case but has been permitted to intervene on a limited basis to argue motions that affect him directly.
The government has opposed Roberts entry into the case, which was first filed in July 2008 as an emergency motion to stop the deal from taking place without their input. Unbeknownst at the time to the victims, the agreement had already been signed nine months earlier. The government asserts that Roberts waited far too long before seeking to join the lawsuit.
Epstein, an enigmatic financier who has palatial homes in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, was the subject of wide-ranging state and federal investigations, beginning in 2005, looking into claims that he had illegal sexual contact with dozens of minor girls at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere. By mid-2007, he was facing a potential federal indictment for alleged sex crimes involving nearly three-dozen teenage girls. If charged and convicted, he could have faced 10 years to life in prison.
Instead, Epstein entered into the unusual and, at the time, confidential non-prosecution agreement with the federal government that resulted in him pleading guilty to two comparatively minor sex crimes in a Florida state court. He pleaded guilty to a count of solicitation of a prostitute and a count of solicitation of a prostitute who is a minor. He served 13 months in jail and must now register as a sex offender for the rest of his life -- in any state where he owns a home.
Dershowitz was among a group of prominent attorneys who helped Epstein secure the deal, which also granted federal immunity to any possible co-conspirators who may have assisted Epstein in the commission of the alleged crimes. The deal also required Epstein to pay the costs of a private attorney to assist the alleged victims who wished to negotiate financial settlements without litigation.
Roberts' attorneys have alleged that Epstein used his wealth and influence with prominent people to secure the favorable deal.
Kenneth Marra, the federal district court judge overseeing the case brought by the victims, has already ruled that the government had an obligation to inform Epstein's victims about the deal, but has reserved judgment about whether the government failed to meet its obligations until a more complete factual record is developed. Marra has indicated that, if he finds the government violated the victims' rights, one possible remedy he would consider is a rescission of Epstein's deal.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, Bradley Edwards and former federal judge Paul Cassell, have long argued that the correspondence between Epstein's attorneys and federal prosecutors is "central to this lawsuit" and argued in a motion filed late Monday night that sealing it "would prevent the public from learning about matters of considerable public concern."
When reached last night by ABC News, Cassell declined to comment on Epstein's allegations that the victims' attorneys were engaged in a "frolic with the media."
Last fall, Judge Marra unsealed a small portion of the correspondence from Epstein's attorneys that had been kept under seal for several months after being filed. One excerpt -- a one-line email from an Epstein attorney sent just as the terms of the non-prosecution deal were being finalized -- reads simply: "Please do whatever you can to keep this from becoming public."
Marra has not set a hearing date, and it is unclear when he might rule. If he were to side with the plaintiffs, the immediate effect could be the unsealing of a 23-page letter written in part by Dershowitz and sent to federal prosecutors two months before the agreement was signed. That letter was filed under seal by the plaintiffs last week.