NEW YORK (WCMH/AP) — L Brands founder and CEO Leslie Wexner has been named as a potential witness in a defamation suit pre-trial hearing on Tuesday on behalf of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
The defamation suit, filed by Virginia Giuffre, says Dershowitz, who represented billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein when he successfully avoided federal sex trafficking charges in 2008, knowingly made “false and malicious defamatory statements” against Giuffre.
Wexner wasn’t in the New York courtroom today, but he was named there as a potential witness for Dershowitz if the case does go to trial. Dershowitz’s lawyers state that Giuffre previously said in court papers that she was forced to have sex with Wexner. Dershowitz’s defense says Giuffre’s allegations are an attempt by her lawyer David Boies to extort Wexner.
Giuffre has alleged she was forced by Epstein to have sex with Dershowitz – a claim Dershowitz vehemently denies. Guiffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts, claims to have been a victim of sex trafficking and abuse by Epstein when she was underage.
Dershowitz previously said he welcomed the suit to prove he never had sex with — or even met — Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has accused the noted lawyer and a long list of other prominent men of sexually exploiting her when she was 17 and 18 years old.
But Dershowitz’s lawyers argued Tuesday that Giuffre waited too long to file her defamation lawsuit and that her case should be dismissed under the statute of limitations. They said Dershowitz has denied Giuffre’s claims since 2015 and has the right to defend his reputation when the accusations are repeated.
Giuffre’s allegations date back many years but drew new attention after Epstein was charged in New York with sexually abusing dozens of girls. Epstein killed himself last month in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial.
Giuffre, 36, has said in court filings that Epstein made her his teenage “love slave” and forced her to have sex with Dershowitz a half-dozen times in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She says Dershowitz also witnessed Epstein abusing other girls.
In July 2019, after news of Epstein’s arrest on child sex trafficking charges broke, NBC4 reported on an affidavit filed in the Dershowitz suit that mentioned an alleged sexual assault at Les Wexner’s home on Kitzmiller Road by Epstein in 1996 against a woman hired to help “him with acquiring art.”
“It’s hard to think of a more viral allegation,” Howard Cooper, an attorney for Dershowitz, told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. “Professor Dershowitz is clearly being active in responding.”
Giuffre’s lawyers countered that Dershowitz has expanded his attacks on Giuffre’s credibility over the years, an escalation that allows them a fresh chance to pursue a defamation lawsuit.
“He has a right to come into court and prove it,” said Sigrid McCawley, an attorney for Giuffre, referring to Dershowitz’s denials. “The law does not allow him to continue to defame my client.”
Dershowitz, 80, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press he has documents that contradict Giuffre’s claims as to his whereabouts. He said Giuffre’s story has evolved over time and that she initially did not implicate him in her account of being sex trafficked.
“Giuffre is the central figure in this case,” Dershowitz said, “and she’s a sworn liar.”
In a speech to L Brands shareholders two weeks ago, Wexner said he was ’embarrassed’ to be taken advantage of by someone so cunning. He called Epstein’s behavior “abhorrent” and “something that we would all condemn.”
NBC4 reached out to L Brands and Wexner’s attorney for comment. A spokesperson declined to comment regarding the potential for Wexner to be called to testify if the suit does go to trial, as it is out of their control.
The Associated Press contributed to this report