Three weeks ago at Jonathan Edwards College’s first reunion, co-chair Jonathan Dach ’08 LAW ’13 could be seen tending to tasks seemingly beneath his senior planning position. Not wanting to attract attention, Dach hustled to make sure all attendees had enough to drink and that the lights were properly dimmed, behavior described by his friend Alexandra Brodsky ’12 LAW ’16 as “very Jonny.”
Two weeks later, Dach was thrust into the spotlight when national media scrutiny focused on his months spent as a White House aide.
An Oct. 8 Washington Post article linked Dach to an April 2012 prostitution scandal that led to the termination of several secret service agents. At the time, Dach was volunteering as a White House aide — and had traveled to Cartagena, Colombia, with President Barack Obama and his staff, arranging travel and accommodations for the president and his team. A 2012 Department of Homeland Security investigation following the trip found that several Secret Service agents hosted prostitutes in their Cartagena hotel rooms. Administration officials denied that anyone from the White House was involved, according to the Washington Post.
But according to recent reports by the New York Post and Washington Post, DHS investigators did in fact find evidence that a prostitute had been checked into Dach’s hotel room. The New York Post reported that information implicating Dach may have been withheld in order to avoid political embarrassment before the 2012 presidential election.
Dach, who now works at the State Department in the Office of Global Women’s Issues, declined to comment for this story.
Dach’s lawyer, Richard Sauber ’72, said that the allegations against Dach are completely false.
“Anyone who knows Jonathan Dach, as I have since he was born, would recognize just how ludicrous these allegations are,” Sauber said.
Indeed members of the Yale community who know Dach personally refute any possibility that he could have been involved in the scandal. According to 32 sources interviewed, Dach’s character is best represented by the way he interacts with others on a regular basis.
“He is such a wonderful person that the accusations seem ridiculous,” Brodsky said. “He’s also far too careful of a person with far too much respect for the [Obama] administration to ever do such a thing.”
Friends recalled Dach’s regularly scheduled “tortilla nights” hosted at his New Haven apartment, as well as the Aaron Sorkin television marathons he planned. Others spoke fondly of an annual Christmas party Dach planned for weeks, complete with a calendar of events for the first 25 days of December.
Melina Shannon-DiPietro, co-founder and director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, said Dach regularly led Wednesday workdays at the Yale Farm, where he taught fellow students volunteer skills.
“He would go out of his way to help others,” Shannon-DiPietro said.
While an undergraduate, Dach was an Ethics, Politics and Economics major and served as the editor in chief of the New Journal. A member of the Society of Book and Snake as a senior, Dach has in the past organized the meeting of the Society Council, a group of representatives from each secret society that determines the rules of tap season.
Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken said she first met Dach when he was a student in one of her seminars. Gerken said she once asked Dach to call a prospective YLS student who was not able to come to the school’s admitted students weekend. Gerken said Dach instead organized a group of friends to meet the student at the train station, took him to Pepe’s Pizza for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon showing the student around New Haven and talking about the law school.
Gerken added that while Dach was working as an aide, he had a deep respect for the White House and President Obama.
“[Dach] had such reverence for the president that he never, not once, referred to him casually as ‘Obama’ — he always called him ‘the President,’” Gerken said in an email to the News. “And he never, not once, revealed an anecdote or information that would be embarrassing to the campaign or the White House.”
YLS professor David Grewal said that Dach was one of the best students he has taught, adding that many other YLS faculty shared the same sentiment.
Grewal suggested that the allegations against Dach are instead the result of misconduct on the part of someone else.
“Someone registered [overnight guests] using Jonny’s room number, which is what you’d do in a big hotel if you were trying to hide the fact that you were bringing in a prostitute,” Grewal wrote in a Monday email. “The shocking thing is that the [Washington Post] decided to revive the story, when there are really no new facts about it.”
Ashley Jackson — who said she got to know Dach through her husband when he attended YLS — said Dach is responsible and professional, particularly when it comes to women’s issues.
“Jonny is a deeply moral and thoughtful person who genuinely respects women and understands the damaging impact of soliciting sex work,” Jackson said.
Dach’s sense of morality was far-reaching, Ayaska Fernando ’08 said. During his freshman year, he and Dach lived in the same Old Campus suite.
Susan Ikenberry, Dach’s AP U.S. History Teacher at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. — where Dach attended high school — said Dach had a reputation for being an engaged and upstanding student in high school as well.
Ikenberry remembered one instance where she handed out a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, and Dach began scrutinizing Jefferson’s wording. Students in the room said Dach’s reaction was a perfect example of how deeply he thought about his studies.
“Jonny argued that one of Jefferson’s noun choices could be improved, and I remember a student muttering ‘Only Jonny Dach would improve on Jefferson’s writing,’” Ikenberry said. “It sounds a bit snarky in writing, but really the tone clearly meant that he thought so highly of Jonny that he had that right.”
While Jonathan Siegel LAW ’13 was not particularly close with Dach while at YLS, he said the unyielding support of Dach by his peers is the ultimate testament to Dach’s character.
“I think Yale Law School is unfortunately in its way sort of a catty place, and I think there are a lot of people where if there was something negative written about them in the newspaper, people would be falling over themselves to talk to reporters and rip that person apart,” Siegel said. “Either people are just not talking about [the allegations] out of respect for [Dach], or if people are talking about it, it’s like ‘Poor Jonny, I can’t believe the Washington Post ran a story like that.’”
Correction: Oct. 21
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ayaska Fernando ’08 illegally downloaded music.