Judge rejects Prince Andrew’s bid to dismiss case over alleged abuse

Virginia Roberts Giuffre claims she was trafficked to royal for sex when aged under 18

 Britain’s Prince Andrew. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

Britain’s Prince Andrew. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

 

Britain’s Prince Andrew is facing trial over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was underage, after failing to persuade a US judge to dismiss her civil lawsuit.

Judge Lewis A Kaplan’s decision to reject the duke’s efforts to dismiss Ms Giuffre’s civil claim is a huge blow for the royal, whose lawyer argued earlier this month the case should be thrown out as Ms Giuffre had waived her right to pursue the duke by signing a confidential settlement with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2009.

In the conclusion of his written ruling, the New York judge said: “For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.

“Given the court’s limited task of ruling on this motion, nothing in this opinion or previously in these proceedings properly may be construed as indicating a view with respect to the truth of the charges or countercharges or as to the intention of the parties in entering into the 2009 agreement.”

Ms Giuffre is suing the prince for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.

She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.

Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.

The Duke of York has vehemently denied the allegations and his legal team has argued from the lawsuit’s first hearing that the case is “baseless”.

Mr Justice Kaplan’s decision keeps Ms Giuffre’s case against the duke on track for a trial that the judge has said could begin late this year.

There has already been speculation the duke may be encouraged to reach an agreement with his accuser in a bid to avoid the trial being held.

If the hearing does go ahead it is not clear whether he will give evidence in person, via a video link or decline to participate.

Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Ms Giuffre, said in a statement that the ruling is “another important step in Virginia’s heroic and determined pursuit of justice as a survivor of sex trafficking”.

Tarnished reputation

Prince Andrew’s reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and he withdrew from public duties soon after his disastrous 2019 Newsnight interview that failed to draw a line under his relationship with the disgraced financier.

The settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, made public earlier this month, detailed how she had received a $500,000 payout in 2009 and agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” the disgraced financier and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.

Mr Justice Kaplan said it was premature to consider Prince Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt” on Ms Giuffre’s claims, although the 61-year-old royal could do so at a trial. The judge said it was also too soon to decide whether Ms Giuffre and Epstein “clearly and unambiguously” intended to release people like Andrew through the 2009 settlement agreement.

The judge also rejected Prince Andrew’s claim that letting Ms Giuffre sue violated his due process rights under New York’s constitution.

Defence argument

Andrew B Brettler, the duke’s lawyer, had argued during a virtual hearing his client was a “potential defendant” as defined by the agreement and so the case “should be dismissed”.

The lawyer said a potential defendant would be someone Ms Giuffre knew she had “claims against at the time that she filed the lawsuit” in 2009 against Epstein, whose former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on December 29th of procuring teenage girls for him.

In his counterargument, David Boies, Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, said only the parties of the settlement agreement – Epstein and Ms Giuffre and their associates – could benefit from it, and not a “third party” such as the duke.

He added that the duke would not be a “potential defendant” as referred to in the settlement, as the 2009 lawsuit made no allegation the duke had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.

The lawyer told the hearing, held to hear the arguments about dismissing the case: “He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked – that’s a different criteria.”

Lawyers for Prince Andrew did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Mr Justice Kaplan’s decision. – PA/Reuters