Politics

Alan Dershowitz mock trial on child trafficking in the Bible canceled after Epstein suicide

Key Points
  • Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz has made a career of defending controversial figures such as Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.
  • But he will not be defending two Bible figures accused of kidnapping and child trafficking in a mock trial, after the event, set to take place at a New York synagogue this fall, was scrapped on Wednesday.
  • "We'll pick a subject that's a little less provocative considering the circumstances," Dershowitz said. 
Jeffrey Epstein with Alan Dershowitz in 2004.
Rick Friedman | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz has made a career of defending controversial figures such as Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.

But he will not be defending two Bible figures accused of kidnapping and child trafficking in a mock trial, after the event, set to take place at a New York synagogue this fall, was scrapped on Wednesday.

Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor and New Jersey governor, was set to lead the prosecution of Joseph's older brothers — who, in a story in the Book of Genesis, sold their sibling into slavery in a fit of envy — on charges of kidnapping and child trafficking. U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams was set to preside.

"[His brothers] ambushed Joseph, threw him into an empty well and then sold him as a slave to the traveling Midianites, faking an attack by wild animals to hide their misdeeds from their father," promotional materials for the event said, according to a tweet posted Tuesday by Jewish Insider reporter Ben Jacobs. "Decades later, Joseph forgave his brothers for their sins. But shouldn't the State hold them accountable for their crimes?"

The People vs. Joseph's Brothers "has been canceled," the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center said in an email. The event had been scheduled for Nov. 17.

Dershowitz, who left a voicemail with CNBC after this article was originally published, said there will be another trial with a new topic in the near future.

"We'll pick a subject that's a little less provocative considering the circumstances. But everything else will be the same," Dershowitz said. 

The former O.J. Simpson attorney said the decision was made by the synagogue "in consultation with me and the others."

Indeed, the optics could have been awkward. The cancellation comes less than a week after Epstein's apparent suicide in a New York jail while he awaited trial on child sex trafficking charges. Dershowitz defended Epstein against related charges brought in Florida a decade ago. The financier ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser state charge.

Dershowitz himself has been accused of having sex with two of Epstein's accusers, including Virginia Giuffre, who alleged in court documents that she was forced to have sex with the Harvard Law School professor on multiple occasions while she was underage. Sarah Ransome, another woman, has said Epstein directed her to have sex with Dershowitz.

Dershowitz has denied the allegations against him, saying that Giuffre is a liar and that he has never met Ransome.

None of the participants in the mock trial besides Dershowitz responded to requests for comment.

The synagogue did not specify a reason for the cancellation. Those who bought the $45 tickets will receive refunds, it said.

Dershowitz said there will be a new trial held at the same synagogue, and which will also feature characters from the Bible.

"Everybody seems to enjoy that format," he said. "It will go forward."

The synagogue frequently hosts prominent guests. Chief Justice John Roberts, opera singer Andrea Bocelli, and attorney Anita Hill, who accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1990s nomination battle, are all scheduled to participate in events hosted by the synagogue this fall.

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.

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