U.S. Judge rejects Prince Andrew’s bid to have Virginia Giuffre’s sex abuse lawsuit dismissed

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Prince Andrew in a right royal sweat

There’s a right Royal sweat on as Prince Andrew looks set to face trial

A federal judge in New York denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Prince Andrew filed by Virginia Giuffre, a woman who alleges she was sexually trafficked to the royal when she was underage.

“Ms Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous,'” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in the ruling. “It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.”

Giuffre alleged in the lawsuit that the late financier Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her and forced her to have sex with his friends, including the prince, and that Andrew was aware she was underage (17) in the US at the time. She alleges the Prince sexually abused her at Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London, at Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands and at his mansion in Manhattan.

Giuffre brought her case under the Child Victims Act, a New York state law enacted in 2019 that expanded the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases to give survivors more opportunities to seek justice.

Prince Andrew has denied the allegations and had moved to dismiss the suit.

The Duke of York is being sued by Ms Giuffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts, who claims he “committed sexual assault and battery” upon her when she was a teenager.

His attorneys argued that her lawsuit violated the terms of her 2009 settlement agreement with Epstein in Florida, in which she agreed to a “general release” of claims against Epstein and others. That settlement, which was released to the public last week, shows that Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000 to drop the case without any admission of liability or fault. The prince’s name does not explicitly appear as a party.

In an effort to get Giuffre’s suit dismissed, Prince Andrew’s lawyers argued that he was among the “Other Potential Defendants” protected under that 2009 deal, and that he should therefore be released from any claims Giuffre might make against him.

The 2009 document said Ms Giuffre had agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.

Giuffre and her lawyers argued that Andrew was not among the “Other Potential Defendants” that the deal referred to. He was not named in the Florida lawsuit, though Giuffre did allege in that suit that she was flown around the world by Epstein to have sexual encounters with men, “including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen and/or professional and personal acquaintances.”

At a court hearing, Andrew Brettler, representing Prince Andrew, said it was “unquestionable” that the royal could have been sued in the 2009 case, and would therefore be considered a “potential defendant”.

The duke’s lawyer told Judge Kaplan that Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit “should absolutely be dismissed”, arguing it was “unfair” and “unjust”.

But Ms Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies said Andrew would not be a “potential defendant” as referred to in the settlement, as the 2009 lawsuit made no allegation that the duke had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.

In the ruling, Kaplan wrote that both sides put forth “reasonable interpretations” of the settlement’s meaning.

“The agreement therefore is ambiguous. Accordingly, the determination of the meaning of the release language in the 2009 Agreement must await further proceedings,” he wrote.

Mr Boies told the hearing: “He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked, that’s a different criteria.”

Outlining his reasons for denying the duke’s motion to dismiss the civil case against him, Judge Kaplan said the agreement between Esptein and Ms Giuffre “cannot be said” to benefit the royal.

It means the royal will face a civil sex case trial later this year.

If the case is not settled, Prince Andrew could face a trial date between September and December 2022. The long-running allegations against Prince Andrew, 61, have already dramatically tarnished his public standing, and he stepped back from royal duties in late 2019.

Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019. Prosecutors accused him of carrying out a decades long scheme of sexual abuse of underage girls, flying them on private planes to his properties in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. He died by suicide in prison before he could face trial.

Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and close associate, was arrested in 2020 and accused of facilitating Epstein’s abuse scheme. A federal jury convicted her in December on five federal counts, including sex trafficking a minor and conspiracy.

Giuffre was not one of the four women who testified in Maxwell’s trial that they had been abused. Still, she was mentioned in the trial when Carolyn, one of the victims, testified that Giuffre had recruited her to come to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Florida.

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