The question of how involved L Brands founder Leslie Wexner will be in the civil case between Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is still up in the air.
Counsel for all parties met virtually Monday to present in front of Southern district of New York Judge Loretta Preska, who suggested attorneys for Dershowitz wait until they receive additional documents from Wexner to determine if he can be deposed, or required to formally testify under oath. Before the retailer — who put Victoria’s Secret on the map and is credited by many for essentially inventing modern-day specialty retail — is compelled to testify, Preska suggested Dershowitz’s attorneys meet with Wexner’s counsel to consider a compromise.
Giuffre has previously claimed that, while still a teenager, she was a victim of sex abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein, who she alleges sex trafficked her out to a number of high-profile men, including Dershowitz.
Dershowitz responded by calling Giuffre a liar, to which Giuffre sued for defamation. The lawyer then countersued Giuffre, claiming that Giuffre defamed him in an attempt to extort money from wealthy men, such as Wexner, founder and chairman emeritus of L Brands. (Epstein controlled Wexner’s billion-dollar fortune for years.)
In a July letter, which was recently made public, Wexner’s attorneys said they had offered a written deposition, “confirming [Dershowitz’s] lack of any relationship whatsoever with Ms. Giuffre,” but said Dershowitz refused, asking for an oral testimony instead. Now Wexner is trying to stay out of the lawsuit altogether.
But Christian Kiely, defense attorney for Dershowitz, objected.
“There can be no serious question that Wexner is a central figure in this litigation,” Kiely said Monday. “His name is referenced nine times in [Giuffre’s] amended complaint. They assert — and this is a direct quote — that ‘Durshowitz central assertion is that plaintiff [Giuffre] has committed perjury and that in December 2014, plaintiff and her lawyers hatched a scheme to falsely accuse the defendant of sex trafficking as part of a criminal attempt to ensure settlement from another party who they elsewhere identified as Wexner.’
“Professor Durshowitz is entitled to prove the truth of that extortion claim even by disposing Mr. Wexner so that the jury can hear from Mr. Wexner in a form that is admissible and that we can use at trial,” Kiely concluded.
Meanwhile, a state case is pending between the high — profile attorney David Boies and Dershowitz.
Boies had previously represented Giuffre, but because of a conflict of interest (some attorneys from Boies’ camp had reached out to Dershowitz about representing him, before it was known that Boies would represent Giuffre), Preska ruled that Boies was not allowed to be legal counsel in the case, but could instead act as a witness for Giuffre.
Lawyers for Wexner, including Marion Little of the law firm Zeiger, Tigges and Little, told Preska on Monday that asking Wexner to testify in two cases was “imposing an unreasonable burden on non-parties” of the case, one that could potentially subject his client to “inconsistent results and multiple subpoenas.”
“Certainly, the plaintiff [Giuffre] in this case has been agreeable to consolidation, to ensure that there is only one set of rulings, so we’re not subject to multiple sets of motion practices, so that we’re not subject to potentially inconsistent orders,” Little told Preska.
Little instead asked the court to force Dershowitz’s attorneys to consolidate all requests. “We’d like to solve all of these issues at one particular point in time,” he said.
Kiely countered that his team “simply cannot agree to that.”
“To be frank, I think that there’s close to zero percent chance that Mr. Wexner is going to voluntarily agree to be deposed,” Kiely said. “We have sought pretty narrow document discovery from Mr. Zeiger and Mr. Wexner and that the areas on which we need to dispose Mr. Wexner are not limited to issues that the documents necessarily speak to. So there’s certainly some overlap, but there’s an independence there, as well. But we’re having to defer until we see these documents.”
Giuffre’s attorney, Nicole Moss, meanwhile, argued that if Dershowitz’s attorneys deposed Wexner, it could quickly spiral into “a circus.”
“If the courts were to say they could go ahead with that disposition, then in our minds that opens a whole other area of discovery that’s going to need to be inquired into,” Moss said. “We understand that any individual who has been accused of being involved in what Mr. Epstein was involved in is going to deny that. And our understanding is that the only reason the defendant wants to depose Mr. Wexner is to get Mr. Wexner on the record as denying that he abused my client or that he met my client. And so if that were to be the purpose of that deposition, then we’re going to need to have the ability to inquire into, well, what is the other evidence that suggests that that is not true? And it can very quickly become multiple mini trials into other individuals that are not the core central issue in this case — which is, did the defendant abuse the plaintiff through sexual contact?”
Moss went on to say that Wexner’s deposition was not “at all necessary” to address Dershowitz’s claims.
“Nobody is alleging that any of the prior attorneys for the plaintiff [Giuffre] had communications with Mr. Wexner,” Moss said. “All of the communications were with Mr. Zeiger [another attorney for Wexner.] All of the parties agree that Mr. Zeiger should be deposed. And we believe that testimony is what has been represented to the court: that there absolutely was no extortion scheme.”
Preska ordered all attorneys to file new protective orders, to determine the extent of privacy in the case, by 5 p.m. EST Tuesday.