New York court to hold pre-trial conference on civil suit against Prince Andrew

Virginia Roberts Giuffre alleges Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was 17

A New York court is to hold a pre-trial conference on Monday on the civil suit filed against Prince Andrew in the sex assault case against him, with reports suggesting his lawyers will not attend the hearing,

Attorneys for Virginia Roberts Giuffre (38) who alleges Prince Andrew (61) sexually assaulted her when she was 17, a charge he vehemently denies, are expected to argue that the royal has been properly served with documents in the case.

They claim the papers were handed over to a Metropolitan police officer on duty at the main gates of Andrew’s Windsor Great Park home on August 27th.

But Blackfords, a law firm representing Prince Andrew “in certain UK matters”, may question whether the papers were properly served and has raised the possibility of challenging the court’s jurisdiction in the case, according to a September 6th letter filed by Ms Giuffre’s attorneys.


The firm quoted a letter from Blackfords saying: “We reiterate that our client reserves all his rights, including to contest the jurisdiction of the US courts (including on the basis of potentially defective service),” it wrote.

A US judge will ultimately determine whether the papers were properly delivered. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US district court for the southern district of New York will hold the first pretrial conference in the case via teleconference on Monday.

According to a Times report, the duke will not be represented at the hearing. His lawyers reportedly oppose participating on the grounds that doing so would amount to accepting US jurisdiction in the case, the paper reported. The duke’s representatives in the UK have been contacted for comment.

He has repeatedly denied the allegations in the lawsuit brought by Ms Giuffre, a longtime accuser of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

When the suit was filed last month, legal experts suggested it left Prince Andrew with no good options as he seeks to repair his image and return to public life. If he tries to ignore the lawsuit, he runs the risk that the court could find him in default and order him to pay damages. If he decides to fight, he potentially faces years of unwelcome headlines as the case winds its way through court.

‘Evaluating his chances’

Ms Guiffre's attorney, David Boies, said in court documents that it was implausible that Andrew was unaware of the suit. "Attorneys at Blackfords, who he has apparently instructed to evade and contest service, have confirmed that Prince Andrew himself already has notice of this lawsuit and is evaluating his chances of success," Mr Boies wrote.

Even if Blackfords had not confirmed as much, any other conclusion would be “implausible”, Mr Boies wrote, given “reputable media outlets around the world reported on the filing of plaintiff’s complaint, and hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about this lawsuit have been published”.

The duke is understood to be at Balmoral, Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish estate, where he held a shooting party at the weekend.

On August 26th, a corporate investigator named Cesar Sepulveda travelled to Windsor and tried and failed to serve the court papers at Royal Lodge, Andrew's home, after police were unable to locate a senior member of the prince's staff, according to reports. The following day, the documents were reportedly left with police at the properly.

A copy of the summons and the complaint were also reportedly emailed to Andrew’s royal household office email address, and to his lawyers by email and FedEx, as well as being sent to his home by first class post. – Guardian