In 2008, Epstein was fighting similar charges in Palm Beach County, Fla. He got a plea deal that greatly reduced the scope of his conviction. He did 13 months in Palm Beach County jail, not prison, and he was allowed to leave the jail to go to work.
One of the lawyers who negotiated that deal is Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. He joins me now. Good morning, sir.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Good morning.
KING: So Professor Dershowitz, let's start by clearing up where you currently stand with Mr. Epstein. Has he hired you to defend him in this current indictment?
DERSHOWITZ: No, I have no relationship with him. I haven't seen him in years, and I haven't spoken to him in months. Occasionally, his lawyers - his current lawyers will call to ask me questions about the plea deal, but I have no current legal relationship with him or a personal relationship.
KING: And you're not currently advising him in any sort of informal...
KING: ...Capacity. OK.
DERSHOWITZ: No, not at all.
KING: OK. I ask because before you were his defense attorney in the Florida prosecution, you and Mr. Epstein were friends, isn't that right?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I was friends in the way that Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, was friends and the way that David Gergen and the way that Stephen Jay Gould - we all knew him academically. He had an office at Harvard University in Brattle Square. And he would conduct seminars, and we would all attend his seminars. None of us had any inkling that he was involved in anything improper. But then when he was arrested, he asked me to help put together a legal team for him, which I did.
KING: You've been - as I understand it, you've been an overnight guest at his homes. You flew with him on his private jet a number of times. You borrowed his Palm Beach house for a family vacation.
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
KING: That doesn't sound like an academic relationship.
DERSHOWITZ: What happened is my granddaughter was in a soccer tournament, and I told him I was coming out to Florida. And he said, my home is available. Why don't you come and stay in it? I flew in his plane much the way many other people did. I flew in his plane with my legal team. I flew on his plane with my wife. I flew on his plane occasionally alone or with other people, but I never had a kind of social relationship where we had dinner together or we had discussions about our personal lives. Our relationship was predominantly academic.
KING: In the past, Professor Dershowitz, you've said you never saw any interactions between Epstein and the girls that he allegedly paid...
KING: ...For sex and such sexual acts.
DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
KING: You have said you don't believe the dozens of girls - now women - who spoke to federal agents, that you think they are motivated by financial gain.
DERSHOWITZ: Oh, no. No, I think...
KING: After all of this...
DERSHOWITZ: I think - no, I think many of them are now motivated by financial gains, but I think some of them were probably subject to sexual abuse. I have no reason to doubt, and I can only doubt the motivation of the woman who accused me who I never met. Remember, my case is very, very different. In every #MeToo case, there's an admitted relationship between the accuser and the accused. They knew each other...
KING: I want to untangle...
KING: ...Two things here. So first of all...
KING: ...You are saying that you may, in fact, believe some of the women who accuse Jeffrey Epstein of having sex with them when they were girls.
DERSHOWITZ: Look. I was his lawyer, and I can't tell you now what I believe or don't believe. I'm not disputing the fact that some of the women, the women particularly in the new accusation, the new indictment - I don't know these people. They may very well be telling the truth. That will be tested by the legal process. You can't presume anybody guilty, but I'm not challenging their veracity at this point. I'm only challenging the veracity of people whose veracity I know is untruthful.
KING: All right. So that leads us to the second point in - of what you were saying. At least one of the young women has alleged that she was made to have sex with you when she was...
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
KING: ...A teenager. You are saying that didn't happen.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, not only am I saying it didn't happen, I have categorical evidence that we never met. I have all of my travel records that show I couldn't have been in the places that she said I was. I have a recorded admission by her own lawyer, David Boies, who said it would be impossible for me to be in those places and that his client was wrong - simply wrong.
So I'm not just denying it. I'm saying I never met this woman. She made up the whole story out of whole cloth for financial reasons. The goal was to try to get a billion dollars from Leslie Wexner. The plan was to accuse me in public and then accuse Leslie Wexner in private of the identical conduct and say to him, essentially, if you don't want to have happen to you what happened to Dershowitz, there are ways of resolving it.
KING: So you referred to Leslie Wexner. That is the founder of L Brands, a man who is a business associate and friend of Jeffrey Epstein, yeah?
DERSHOWITZ: I was referring to Leslie Wexner, who owns Victoria's Secret. And what he was accused of doing was having sex on seven occasions with the same woman who accused me, with one difference. She said that Wexner made her wear Victoria's Secret-type lingerie, and yet, he was never proceeded against by David Boies after there was a meeting. And the question that is arising is, did he pay money not to have his name included? Did David Boies not believe the story about Leslie Wexner? That's an issue very much worth investigating.
KING: I want to talk about your work defending Jeffrey Epstein.
KING: You helped him get a light sentence for a person...
DERSHOWITZ: That's my job.
KING: ...Who was convicted...
DERSHOWITZ: That's my job. Sure.
KING: ...Of sex offenses. That's your job.
DERSHOWITZ: Yeah. Yeah. No, that's what I do, and I would do it again. And my job, when I take a case, is to try to get the best possible result I can. It's the job of the prosecutor and the judge to make sure that the appropriate sentence is accorded. My job is to get the best possible sentence and the best possible result I can, consistent with legal ethics. That's what I've done all of my life. That's what I will continue to do for the rest of my life.
KING: And you don't feel bad about that in light of all of this stuff that has continued to emerge. You don't look back and think, huh, maybe I shouldn't have gotten such a good deal.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I taught my students for 50 years at Harvard Law School. You should always feel bad about producing results like this, but it's your job. The job is to do what you can to help your client and then to feel bad about it. That's part of what you do as a criminal defense lawyer. And if you can't do that, you should be in the job of prosecuting, not defending. But you cannot for one second think about compromising the rights of your client.
KING: Do you have concerns that in helping to craft this plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein - the non-prosecution agreement, as it's called - that you kind of crafted a blueprint that could hinder the work of sex crimes prosecutors, that could discourage victims and witnesses from coming forward?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, actually - again, my job is to do the best I can. You might ask me whether when I represented O.J., I encouraged people to commit murders; when I represented Claus von Bulow, I encouraged people to try to kill their wives. When you are a defense attorney, you have to defend your client to the best of your ability.
What I am concerned about is that this condemnation of Acosta, for whom I've had - I have no grief, is now going to result in more closed cases going to trial instead of being pleaded. And the result of that will be more acquittals that won't be good for victims. It won't be good for defendants, and it won't be good for the rule of law. But my job is not to help the government. My job is to help the defendant.
KING: Alan Dershowitz is a criminal defense lawyer and professor of law emeritus at Harvard Law School. Thank you for joining us.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.