Les Wexner

WASHINGTON — A federal judge Monday ordered the unsealing and release of correspondences from attorneys for celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Victoria’s Secret founder Leslie Wexner in a defamation case that is likely to reveal more about the secretive life of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled Monday that there was no cause to conceal the legal requests and responses and set an Aug. 17 date for a hearing on whether the retail magnate Wexner can be forced to testify in a defamation case involving one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Preska wrote that she saw “no reason for that correspondence to remain under seal,” and told the parties to file their respective letters on the public docket, which happened Monday afternoon. The documents show that Dershowitz alleges that Giuffre — who is suing him for defamation — is trying to extort money from him because of his relationship as a longtime friend to and lawyer for Epstein. And Dershowitz wants Wexner and his attorney John Zeiger to testify that they had privately settled a similar claim threatened by Giuffre.

Dershowitz, who is countersuing Giuffre, was not only friends with Epstein, but as his lawyer was instrumental in negotiating a nonprosecution agreement more than a decade ago that absolved Epstein, his close associates and unnamed others of potential federal charges of sex trafficking.

The deal blessed by then-U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida Alexander Acosta proved highly controversial, and last year the U.S. attorney for Southern New York ignored it as he filed sex trafficking charges against the multimillionaire. Epstein was found dead by hanging in his jail cell as he awaited trial, scuttling efforts by the feds to have him implicate other prominent men.

In a June 23 letter to the judge, attorneys for Dershowitz noted they had served subpoenas in June on Wexner and Zeiger, and asked Preska to compel them to provide for “the production of a small number of documents directly relevant to the central allegation in this case that Plaintiff [Giuffre] falsely accused Professor Dershowitz of sexual abuse as part of a scheme to extort Wexner.”

Giuffre is the most prominent of the numerous women alleging sexual abuse while underage at the hands of Epstein. She says she was lured to Epstein by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested on July 2, and forced into sexual servitude over a four-year-period, coerced into sleeping with powerful men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew and Dershowitz. Both men deny the claim.

In her response, Giuffre argued through a lawyer that Dershowitz has made the false allegation against her and for that reason she too wants to ask questions of Wexner.

“Defendant has put Leslie Wexner at the heart of his false and defamatory claims that Plaintiff and her counsel were engaged in an extortion plot to extract money from wealthy associates of Jeffrey Epstein by allegedly falsely naming the Defendant,” Charles J. Cooper, attorney with the firm Cooper & Kirk, which represents Giuffre in the defamation case, wrote in a July 28 letter to Preska..

Giuffre’s attorney zeroed in on the Dershowitz claim that Wexner was framed for financial reasons.

“For this reason, Plaintiff was likewise planning on seeking relevant documents and testimony from Mr. Wexner and Mr. Zeiger. Plaintiff, therefore, respectfully requests that the Court allow these depositions to proceed,” he wrote.

Wexner, now 83 and largely out of public view, is fighting to stay out of this matter. Epstein for a long stretch managed Wexner’s personal finances and those of his family charities. At one point, Epstein had broad power-of-attorney over the finances of Wexner, who grew wealthy through groundbreaking retail brands, including The Limited and Victoria’s Secret. Dershowitz is asking Judge Preska to compel Wexner to provide information on any correspondence between Wexner or Zeiger with Giuffre and her lawyers, past and present.

Through his attorney Zeiger, Wexner said he has no relevant information that could be used in a trial. No correspondence from Zeiger was released by the judge, but Dershowitz’s lawyers included a lengthy back-and-forth email chain that showed Wexner would cooperate only if compelled.

Lawyers for Dershowitz told the judge he was not worried about trial right now, just a legal stage called discovery, the pre-trial process where each side can seek obtain evidence that the other claims to have.

“Professor Dershowitz will address the admissibility of testimony obtained from Wexner at the appropriate time, upon a complete discovery record including being able to offer the Court Wexner’s actual testimony, as opposed to his lawyer’s self-serving characterization of what it will be,” Howard M. Cooper, an attorney with Todd & Weld, which is representing Dershowitz, wrote in a July 31 letter to the judge unsealed Monday.

In that same thread, a lawyer for Wexner cited a tweet from Miami Herald investigative journalist Julie Brown — whose Perversion of Justice series eventually brought Epstein’s downfall — as the reason they would not cooperate.

“Howard, we will not be releasing the information absent the protective order that contains an enforcement mechanism for seeking contempt of court. The necessity for this is evidenced by Julie Brown’s tweet today reporting that your client’s counsel has access to sealed depositions and is disclosing the contents of the same,” said the June 23 email from Marion H. Little with Zeiger, Tigges & Little. “Do not know whether that is true, but that is what she is reporting.”

Preska ordered the parties to discuss what exactly they are seeking from each other and file briefs with her by Thursday, four days before she hears them in a telephonic hearing.

The judge is very much in the news of late. Late last month, she ordered a large batch of documents unsealed in a separate defamation case involving Giuffre and Maxwell that was settled in 2017.

Those documents began trickling out but Maxwell’s deposition, the basis for which federal perjury charges were also brought against her after her July 2 arrest, was held back awaiting an appeals court hearing on Aug. 20.

Her attorneys say the unsealing of documents, part of a public-interest lawsuit brought by the Miami Herald, will prejudice her ability to defend herself in the federal criminal case.