NEW YORK -- Noted attorney Alan Dershowitz testified Thursday he warned Woody Allen he was risking destruction of his life and his career as a renowned movie actor-director by attempting to wrest custody of his three children from Mia Farrow by legal means.
The Harvard law professor and author took the witness stand in state Supreme Court as a witness for Farrow, saying she had called him into the custody battle last summer in an 'informal mediating capacity' between batteries of attorneys represent her and Allen.
'I hoped I could resolve the issue in a way that would protect Miss Farrow's children and all parties involved...without the need for any kind of litigation,' Dershowitz explained under examination by a Farrow attorney, Gerald Walpin.
The attorney from Cambridge, Mass., testified that when he learned that Allen had filed for sole custody of his children while attorneys were still negotiating a possible settlement, he felt 'stabbed in the back.'
On a plane back to Boston after the aborted meeting in New York, he drafted a letter to Allen which he later faxed to one of the actor's New York attorneys, J. Martin Obten, Dershowitz recalled.
'I still believe the matter can be resolved without more escalation or further damage to both parties,' he said he wrote Allen. 'I am a great admirer of your work and do not want to see your career and your life destroyed. Right now you are on that road.'
The trial before Justiced Elliott Wilk, now in its second month, is to decide whether Allen should have custody of his biological son, Satchel, 5, an adopted daughter, Dylan, 7, who Farrow claims was sexually abused by Allen, and an adopted son, Moses, 15.
The children live with Farrow and Allen only has visitation rights with Satchel. Farrow has eight other natural and adopted children including a 22-year-old daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, with whom Allen, 57, has admitted having an affair -- another impediment to a peaceful custody settlement.
Dershowitz confirmed previous testimony by Allen's attorneys that they met with Farrow's attorneys last Aug. 13, the same day Allen initiated the court battle for custody.
However, he denied testimony by Allen's California attorney, Irwin Tenenbaum, that Dershowitz and Farrow's attorneys had demanded hush money from Allen, ranging from $5 million to $8 million, to 'make the matter go away' by having Farrow drop abuse charges.
'Absolutely and categorically not,' he replied when Walpin asked him if the alleged blackmail occurred.
'This was absolutely inconsistent to what the meeting was all about, ' he continued. 'It was not premised on any payment or financial setlement. It was premised on good faith to resolve the issues.
'The meeting was an effort to avoid the kind of catastrophe which has occurred to everyone since.'
Dershowitz also denied Tenenbaum's testimony that Farrow's attorneys said they could 'generally not cooperate with authorities investigating child abuse and withhold evidence' in return for 'big bucks.'
He did acknowledge that attorneys on both sides discussed approaching Connecticut and New York authorities in regard to possible criminal charges against Allen.
'We felt that if a united front could be made to the Connecticut authorities, and if we could show that Dylan's best interests were protected, we agreed it might be somehow possible to decriminalize this matter,' Dershowitz said.
'This was not premised, however, on any payments or financial settlement,' he added.
Dershowitz said he told Tenenbaum he would like to meet Allen 'eye- to-eye because I thought naively I could resolve the problem' in a personal interview.
Tenenbaum replied that Allen 'often does not know his own best interests, that he was totally irrational and out of control on the issue,' Dershowitz said.
An earlier witness, David Levett, a Connecticut attorney representing Farrow, said one of the major issues under discussion was a financial settlement for Farrow which would make up for her loss of annual income of $300,000 which she was paid by Allen for making one movie a year.
He said a payment of $2.5 million, roughly representing 10 years of income, was suggested.
Levett also said child support was discussed, calculated at $17,000 a month until each attain the age of 21, as well as college tuition which would cost a total of $800,000 or $900,000.