updated 02/04/2014 AT 7:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/04/2014 AT 8:00 AM ET
Woody Allen’s attorney forcefully denied decades-old molestation allegations against the director Tuesday, but refused to blame Dylan Farrow for making them – saying she was coached as a child by her mother, Mia Farrow, to believe she had been sexually abused.
“His reaction is one of overwhelming sadness because of what has happened to Dylan,” Elkan Abramowitz told NBC’s Today show when asked how Allen, 78, reacted to his onetime adopted daughter’s open letter in The New York Times claiming he abused her.
“She was a pawn in a huge fight between him and Mia Farrow years ago, and the idea that she was molested was implanted in her by her mother,” Abramowitz said. “That memory is never going to go away. So the fact that she says this now, that it happened 20 years ago, is totally understandable.”
Asked why a grown woman would lie – Dylan is now 28, married and living in Florida under a different name – Abramowitz replied: “In my view, she’s not lying. I think she truly believes this happened. That’s what the vice of this is. When you implant a story in a fragile 7-year-old’s mind, it stays there forever. It never goes away.”
Abramowitz pointed to the investigation in the early ’90s by Yale-New Haven Hospital that concluded no sexual abuse had taken place. He also said the custody judge who barred Allen from any visitation with Dylan after Allen and Farrow’s split was “wrong” and “favored Mia Farrow for a variety of reasons.”
Early Tuesday morning, hours before the attorney’s appearance on the NBC show, Mia Farrow Tweeted: “I love my daughter. I will always protect her. A lot of ugliness is going to be aimed at me. But this is not about me, it’s about her truth.”
Asked on Today if Allen wants to press legal charges himself, Abramowitz replied: “Woody Allen is not interested in suing anybody for defamation. He was determined not to have molested his daughter 20 years ago. The case is over. There is no case. The fact that it is being brought up now is suspect. The timing is suspect.”
Pressed on that last statement, Abramowitz said of the allegations and their timing: “I think that it’s a continuation of Mia Farrow’s desire to hurt Woody Allen. And Woody Allen is now riding fairly high. He got the Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, which he totally deserved. And I believe it revived the anger that she has toward him.”
For much more on this story, including exclusive interviews with Dylan Farrow and her brother Moses, who supports Allen, look for this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, and more coverage on People.com this week