A New York Judge on Wednesday January 12, ruled that a civil case against Prince Andrew from Virginia Giuffre, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage sex ring can proceed to trial.
Giuffre sued the prince in August, claiming that he abused her on multiple occasions in 2001 when she was a 17-year-old victim of the sex trafficking ring Epstein ran for decades with the help of his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
Epstein famously died in jail ahead of a federal trial on related charges, but Maxwell was convicted late last month.
The British royal’s legal team had sought to have the case dismissed on the basis it was “legally insufficient,” largely due to a settlement she signed in 2009 with his friend, the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, which he claimed released him from any liability.
In a 44-page opinion made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the British royal’s hail Mary attempt to toss out Giuffre’s lawsuit on the grounds that she waived her right to sue in the 2009 deal with Epstein. This settlement, unsealed last week, refers to Epstein and “his agent(s), attorney(s), predecessor(s), successor(s), heir(s), administrator(s), assign(s) and/or employee(s)” as the “Second Parties” of the settlement agreement, but additionally includes a provision to release “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant.”
Judge Kaplan 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.”
Judge Kaplan also noted that the $500,000 settlement between Epstein and Giuffre did not involve the prince, and “clearly and unambiguously” does not prohibit a suit against him now.
“The existence of the requisite intent to benefit him or others comparable to him, is an issue of fact that could properly be decided on this motion even if defendant fell within the releasing language, which itself is ambiguous,” the opinion states.
“Thus, independent of whether the release language applies to Prince Andrew, the agreement, at a minimum, is ‘reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation’ on the equally important question of whether this defendant may invoke it.
“As a matter of Florida law, this Court cannot rewrite the 2009 Agreement to give defendant rights where the agreement does not clearly manifest an intent to create them.”
The judge’s refusal to dismiss Giuffre’s case will now be the cause of much consternation (if not sweating) for Prince Andrew, who has categorically denied the allegations.
The news that Prince Andrew is set to face a civil trial comes just days after Buckingham Palace announced a plethora of celebrations in honor of the Queen’s jubilee, which marks 70 years on the throne. It is now almost inconceivable that the Prince, who has effectively been banished from public life by the British royal famile, will be present at any of them, including the Trooping of the Color parade in which the Queen traditionally appears on Buckingham Palace’s balcony alongside her family.
Giuffre alleges in her complaint that Prince Andrew forced her to have sex with him at Maxwell’s apartment in London, as well as at Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, known as Little Saint James.
Prince Andrew’s lawyers have said that Andrew never sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre and that he “unequivocally denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.” The 61-year-old Duke of York himself has strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations.
Judge Kaplan noted that he was required by law, at this stage of the legal proceedings, to litigate as if the allegations made by Giuffre are true.
The Judge wrote;
“The law prohibits the Court from considering at this stage of the proceedings defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms. Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial.”
The Queen of England’s son’s reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Jeffrey 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.
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 Prince Andrew will give evidence in person, via a video link or decline to participate.