2 powerful lawyers reportedly planned to use videos of Epstein associates to rake in millions - but it appears they were duped
- In August, a mysterious man using the pseudonym Patrick Kessler met with top lawyers David Boies and John Pottinger and told them he had access to a vast archive of the late Jeffrey Epstein's files.
- Kessler said the archive included the vast amount of personal-security footage that Epstein filmed inside his various properties, and that it included incriminating shots of the financier's famous associates.
- With the lure of grainy photographs that Kessler claimed showed men like Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, and Alan Dershowitz, Boies' legal nemesis, having sex with the women Epstein coerced and trafficked, the supposed whistleblower convinced the two lawyers he was worth their time.
- Over months of encrypted correspondence and back-and-forth between interested parties, including The New York Times, Kessler's promises led to a failed plot for Boies and Pottinger to generate millions.
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A mysterious man told two of the country's most powerful lawyers that he could give them access to the late Jeffrey Epstein's data, including incriminating evidence of the financier's famous associates with the women - many of whom were underage - that Epstein was accused of coercing and trafficking.
Under the pseudonym Patrick Kessler, the man was successful in leading the two lawyers, David Boies and John Pottinger, along for months. He even got The New York Times involved.
The evidence Kessler claimed to have access to never materialized, and the grainy photos he claimed showed men, including Alan Dershowitz and Ehud Barak, having sex with women connected to Epstein were never verified. Both Dershowitz and Barak denied to The Times that they were in the photos, and Boies and Pottinger went from calling Kessler a "whistleblower" to a "fraudster."
But the lead-up to the eventual disappointment revealed that the two lawyers were willing to represent both sides of Epstein's sex trafficking case to generate millions of dollars. They say that some of the money they hoped to win from the men incriminated by Kessler's evidence would go toward the victims, but they would each have also received boosts, both financially and in PR.
The Times' own investigation showed that the lawyers and Kessler told wildly different stories to different sources, as Epstein's legal legacy continued to unfold.
How an 'informant' led powerful lawyers astray with promises of Epstein's evidence that never materialized
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
In August, Kessler, who drank "like a fish" and had a large, commanding presence, first contacted a lawyer who had access to Epstein's accusers - Brad Edwards, the Florida-based attorney who represents a number of the late financier's victims. Edwards referred Kessler to his New York partner, Pottinger.
In initial discussions with Pottinger, who looped in Boies - another well-known representative of Epstein's accusers - Kessler claimed to have access to encrypted files from Epstein's many properties that showed seven powerful men having sex with women connected to Epstein. In some cases, he said the men were committing rape.
Those seven men included Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, along with Dershowitz, Boies' legal nemesis, Prince Andrew, three billionaires, and a prominent CEO. The Times reported there is no evidence to substantiate the claims that any of those men were caught on video having sex with women at Epstein's residences.
Pottinger gave Kessler a draft of an agreement for him to sign on as his client (it was never signed). Both Pottinger, who was interested in elevating his firm, and Boies, who was looking for redemption after representing Harvey Weinstein, found Kessler trustworthy enough to investigate his claims further.
Boies and Pottinger devised a plan to squeeze the incriminated, wealthy men for private settlements to aid victims
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Kessler told them that he had been molested as a little boy, and that he joined forces with an online hacking community that sought to combat pedophilia. He said that he was introduced to Epstein in 2012 and that the financier hired him to set up encrypted servers that would hold his digital archives, including 24/7 camera footage.
Pottinger communicated with Kessler over the encrypted messaging app Signal, and Pottinger told the informant that he planned to meet with an Israeli newspaper magnate about the photo Kessler claimed was of Barak, in time for the Israeli election. Pottinger later told The Times he pulled the idea out of his "behind" and was trying to play into Kessler's plan to expose the seven men. Boies said the meeting never occurred.
Boies and Pottinger also discussed creating a charity to support victims of abuse that would be bankrolled by private legal settlements from the men incriminated by Kessler's supposed evidence.
Over the encrypted messaging app Signal, Pottinger encouraged Kessler to dig up the pertinent files regarding the "hot list" of men who the lawyers then planned to approach. Then, in September, they began disclosing some of the evidence Kessler claimed to possess with The Times. The threat of a major publication having access to the footage would put further pressure on the seven men, once the two lawyers decided to proposition them.
After the planned session with the lawyers, Kessler, and The Times, Kessler arranged another secret meeting with reporters from the paper. Privately, he complained that he felt Boies and Pottinger were more interested in financial gains than exposing wrongdoing. He showed the reporters grainy photographs of the other members of the "hot list" that his lawyers had planned to keep quiet at that point.
Kessler also told The Times he found financial ledgers showing that Epstein possessed vast amounts of Bitcoin and cash in the Middle East and Bangkok, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in gold, silver, and diamonds. He never presented any proof, and as The Times began to investigate his claims, his stories failed to add up or correlate to fact.
Two of Epstein's most prominent victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre (represented by Boies) and Maria Farmer, both said Epstein showed them or they found evidence of him recording surveillance footage of his residences. When police search Epstein's Palm Beach residence in 2005, they found two hidden cameras. But no evidence of an encrypted archive existing, or of Kessler having access to it, has emerged.
In late September, Boies and Pottinger met with The Times, sans Kessler, and said they planned to send a team overseas to download the files from Kessler's servers, as they were tired of waiting for their whistleblower to deliver. They offered to share the information with The Times, on the condition that they could decide which men would be exposed and when, so as not to interfere with their own legal proceedings. The Times reported that the newspaper didn't commit to the proposal.
At around the same time, Kessler called Dershowitz and shared his story with the lawyer he claimed to have incriminating evidence on. He told Dershowitz that he didn't have any footage of him at Epstein's residences, despite showing The Times and his own lawyers the grainy photograph he claimed was of Dershowitz having sex. When The Times showed Dershowitz the photo, his wife said it couldn't be him, because he doesn't wear his glasses "doing that."
Kessler's plot fizzled out after he claimed a fire destroyed his servers and he needed to flee the foreign country he held them in
In October, Kessler said he was ready to send the Epstein files to The Times, along with very specific instructions to obtain them, lest they self-destruct. On the morning that the files were supposed to be sent, Kessler texted to say that a fire had consumed the servers and that he had to flee to Kyiv.
The same day, he contacted Pottinger, sans his story of fire and escape. Kessler said he hoped they could net $1 billion from the "hot list" with the evidence he had. He asked Pottinger what the hypothetical legal plans would be. Pottinger said there were two hypotheticals: settlements could be reached, and the money could be divided among the seven mens' victims, the foundation, Kessler, and the lawyers.
The other scenario would involve the lawyers first representing the victims, then approaching the seven men and being hired as their lawyers, ensuring that the "hot list" would avoid lawsuits but have to pay out generous sums for the victims' foundation. Pottinger said neither scenario would occur unless both the seven men and the victims could be identified and retained after the footage was delivered.
Pottinger told The Times that his plans would not have been carried out in the way he articulated to Kessler, but Boies stressed that it wouldn't be illegal to work for the victims first, and later, the abusers. The lawyers could have earned to 40% of the settlements, but Boies said he didn't plan to accept it - he currently represents some of Epstein's victims pro bono. But the footage never arrived.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit their website to receive confidential support.