NEW YORK: Britain’s Prince Andrew failed to convince a US judge to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit accuses the Duke of York of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.
In a decision made public on Wednesday (Jan. 12), U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Giuffre, 38, could pursue claims that Andrew assaulted her and intentionally caused her emotional distress while the late financier Jeffrey Epstein acted on her.
The Manhattan judge said it was premature to review Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt” on those claims, although the 61-year-old prince could do so during a trial.
Kaplan said it was also too early to decide whether Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Epstein “clearly and unequivocally” shielded Andrew from her lawsuit.
The judge did not consider the merits of Giuffre’s claims.
Andrew’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, said in a statement that his client was satisfied and “looking forward to a judicial determination” of the merits of her claims.
Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, has denied Giuffre’s allegations that he forced her to have sex in a London home of former Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell more than 20 years ago, and abused her at two Epstein properties.
Kaplan’s decision keeps the case on track for a trial that he says could begin between September and December 2022 if no settlement is reached.
URGENT TO ADJUST
Sarah Krissoff, a partner at Day Pitney and former federal prosecutor, said the decision made it more likely Andrew would pursue a friendly settlement.
“I can’t imagine Prince Andrew wanting every detailed allegation to come out,” she said. “If I was on Prince Andrew’s team, I would definitely be having a discussion with him right now about solving this case.”
In the 2009 settlement, Epstein paid Giuffre US$500,000, without admitting liability, to end her Florida lawsuit in which he accused him of sexually abusing her when she was a minor.
Giuffre’s allegations against Andrew are unproven, and the Prince is not charged with criminal misconduct.
Andrew’s case and ties to Epstein have nevertheless damaged the Prince’s reputation and cost him many royal duties.
Andrew’s problems mounted after critics said he did not appear to be sympathetic to Epstein’s victims in a 2019 BBC interview.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman declined to comment on Kaplan’s decision.
Epstein committed suicide at age 66 in a Manhattan prison cell in August 2019, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted on December 29 of recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.
She is seeking a new trial after a juror told media outlets, including Reuters, that he had discussed during jury deliberations that he was a victim of sexual abuse.
In his 44-page decision, Kaplan said the “muddled” language in Giuffre and Epstein’s settlement agreement suggested they had reached “somewhat of a middle ground.”
The settlement included language to “fire forever” several people who “could have been included as a potential defendant” in Giuffre’s lawsuit against Epstein.
“We don’t know what went through the minds of the parties” in the drafting of the settlement, Kaplan wrote.
Giuffre and Andrew “articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language,” the judge continued. “The agreement is therefore ambiguous.”
Settlement agreements can prevent plaintiffs like Giuffre from pursuing further lawsuits, even against third parties.
Kaplan also rejected Andrew’s claim that having Giuffre indicted violated his rights to a fair trial under the New York Constitution.
Giuffre indicted Andrew last August, less than a week before the passage of a state law that gives prosecutors a two-year term to prosecute for alleged child abuse that happened a long time ago.
Kaplan called that period, which was extended by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “a reasonable measure to remedy wrongs to victims” of child sexual abuse.