I am completely obsessed with the Jeffrey Epstein story. And why wouldn’t I be? It’s the most operatic of Chump Lady topics — grotesque sexual entitlement and what happens when Bad Men let their dicks wander.
The Epstein saga is also the story of one woman’s mightiness — Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown — who doggedly pursued Epstein when no one else would touch it.
(Whenever the news cycle gets me down, I let my thoughts wander to Jeffrey alone in his Manhattan jail cell with only rats and fetid puddles. A thousand blessings upon you, Julie.)
In a field of villains, however, one stands out among the slime — Harvard law professor emeritus and Martha’s Vineyard pariah — Alan Dershowitz.
You may know him for his work defending high-profile monied rapists, or as Epstein’s party pal and legal counsel. Or perhaps you’re familiar with his winsome op-ed to abolish statutory rape laws, his perfect, perfect sex life, or how he always keeps his underpants on.
But after yesterday’s New Yorker profile, I have a new reason to hate Alan Dershowitz — what he did to Sue Barlach. His first wife.
I’ve read too many stories of abuse here. Of the hell it is to divorce a vengeful narcissist. I’ve lived it. Scores of you have lived it. You will read these next paragraphs like a punch to the gut.
Dershowitz’s collaborators were Harvey Silverglate, a former student of his, who had a small firm in Boston, and Jeanne Baker, a law-school student who was a research assistant there. “Working together with these two extraordinary young lawyers,” he wrote, “made it clear to me how unhappy I was in my marriage.”
Those crazy comely young assistant coincidences. How they intersect with “unhappiness.”
In 1973, he and Sue separated, after fourteen years of marriage, and she soon filed for divorce. The case went to court in early 1976, and the proceedings were acrimonious. In Judge Haskell Freedman’s lengthy findings of fact, he wrote that Dershowitz’s behavior toward Sue “negatively affected the plaintiff’s health to the extent that she required medical treatment and briefly some psychiatric therapy. ” (Dershowitz denies mistreating her, and his son Elon said that he witnessed no improper treatment.)
Sue had been given provisional custody of the children, but Dershowitz, represented by his friend Silverglate, was seeking sole custody. He brought in a psychiatrist named Pierre Johannet as an expert witness. At first, Johannet recommended joint custody. But in an appearance a month later he testified that he had changed his mind, after listening to tapes of phone conversations between Dershowitz and Sue. (Dershowitz has a long habit of recording calls, but says that he has no recollection of taping these.)
Judge Freedman, too, was influenced by the tapes. In the conversations, Sue addressed Dershowitz “in the most disparaging terms,” according to the findings. “She called him names over the telephone while the children listened.” The judge noted that Sue interfered with Dershowitz’s visits with the children and harshly insulted Jeanne Baker, who had become Dershowitz’s girlfriend. Freedman relied on testimony from a number of witnesses—including Sue’s sister, Marilyn, who by then was married to Dershowitz’s brother—that Dershowitz would do more to help the children adjust to the divorce. Freedman acknowledged that Johannet had reversed his position—but that, he wrote, merely proved that he was a “truly objective witness.” He awarded Dershowitz custody.
There but for the grace of God.
The mindfuck. The baiting. The trap. The threat — carried out — to take away your children. The impoverishment. To make you pay for leaving him. To hurt you in ways no one else could ever hurt you. Because you had the guts to leave.
On New Year’s Eve, 1983, she walked to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and leaped to her death.
There but for the grace of God.
Sue Barlach was Alan Dershowitz’s chump. His original sin. I wish she were alive today to see him fall. Maybe her ghost whispers in Julie Brown’s ear. Maybe she’s the guardian angel of every raped 15-year-old with crap life options in an Epstein mansion.
I hope she’s an avenging angel.
I hope Alan Dershowitz goes down.