NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – A judge has – for now – refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Britain’s Prince Andrew by an American woman who says he sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old.
Insisting on Wednesday that he was not ruling on the veracity of the allegations, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected an argument from Andrew’s attorneys that Virginia Giuffre’s trial should be thrown out at an early stage because of an outdated legal agreement she reached with. Jeffrey Epstein, the financier she claims had sex with the prince.
Kaplan said the prince was not involved in the $500,000 settlement between Epstein and Giuffre and no longer prosecuted him.
Giuffre sued 61-year-old Andrew in August, saying he was forced into sexual encounters with him in 2001 by Epstein and his longtime partner, Ghislaine Maxwell. Giuffre said she was sexually abused by Andrew at Maxwell’s London home, Epstein’s New York mansion and his property in the US Virgin Islands.
Andrew’s lawyers said the trial lacked specifics and was disqualified from the deal he struck in 2009. Epstein’s lawyers. He also attacked Giuffre’s credibility and motives, saying in October that the lawsuit was aimed at obtaining “another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him”.
Prince’s lawyers have said Andrew never sexually assaulted or assaulted Giuffre and that he “categorically denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.”
The prince himself has vehemently denied Giuffre’s allegations. In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that sex with Giuffre “didn’t happen” and that he had “no recollection” of ever meeting her. His statements prompted critics to say that he seemed insensitive to Epstein’s victims. Later, the prince withdrew from royal duties.
His lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Wednesday. Buckingham Palace told The Associated Press it would not comment on the “ongoing legal case”.
Sigrid McCauley, an attorney for Giuffre, said in a statement that Kaplan’s ruling is “another important step in Virginia’s heroic pursuit of justice as a heroic and sex trafficking survivor.”
While Andrew denies the allegations, Buckingham Palace wants him to settle the matter so Queen Elizabeth II can proceed without further scandalous headlines that undermine the monarchy and stigmatize every member of the royal family, according to Howard International. Law expert Mark Stephens said. Kennedy in London.
Stephens said Wednesday’s decision means that the process of delaying every technical point open to him as a matter of law has effectively played itself out. Even though Andrew is likely to appeal, the case will proceed, and he will face the embarrassment of testifying about his alleged activities with the 17-year-old.
“The practical realities of this situation have put a noose around Prince Andrew’s neck,” Stephens said. “He has to compromise. He has to get out. Or he’s a dead man walking.”
Kaplan noted that at this stage of the trial, he was required by law to believe that Giuffre’s allegations were true, although Prince’s lawyers may doubt the veracity of the claims at trial. The judge has said that the trial will not take place until the end of this year at the earliest. Before that would be the testimony of the prince and Giuffre.
Giuffre’s settlement with Epstein dates back to a decade after the financier killed himself in a Manhattan lockup as he awaits a sex trafficking trial in 2019, more than a decade after Florida federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit against his lawyers. Made a deal not to prosecute. His lawyers claimed the Florida deal blocked New York’s charges.
Similarly, Andrew’s lawyers cited language in Epstein’s recently sealed $500,000 settlement with Giuffre, which said his claims against “potential defendants” were also denied by the deal.
But Kaplan wrote that there were enough indications in the agreement that Epstein and Giuffre clearly did not intend to “directly,” “primarily,” or “substantially” benefit someone like Prince. He said the prince was not a party to the agreement.
He also said that the agreement was “far from a model of clear and precise drafting.”
The judge’s findings reflected observations made by both sides during oral arguments, when he was specifically dismissing the arguments made on behalf of the prince.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking, while his ex-girlfriend, Maxwell, 60, was recently indicted on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. in federal court in New York. Giuffre’s allegations against Andrew were not part of any criminal case.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they choose to publicly come forward, as Giuffre has done.
Associated Press reporter Danica Kirka contributed from London.