A judge in New York has rejected Prince Andrew’s attempt to persuade a US court to throw out a sexual abuse lawsuit brought against him by longtime American accuser Virginia Giuffre.
Giuffre, now 38, says she was forced into sex at 17 with Andrew, the Duke of York, by associates of his, the late sex offender and financier, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell, the British media heiress who was convicted in New York last month of sex-trafficking girls for Epstein.
Giuffre’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew can move forward, Manhattan federal judge Lewis Kaplan ruled on Wednesday morning, noting it was too early to make a determination on the duke’s attempts to undermine Giuffre’s claims.
Giuffre, who has also alleged that Epstein and Maxwell sexually abused her, said they had coerced her into having sex with Andrew in London. Giuffre has also accused Andrew of engaging in sexual misconduct on other occasions. She filed suit against the royal on 9 August last year, citing battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Prince Andrew’s legal team had argued in court papers and proceedings that Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Epstein shielded the duke from her lawsuit. The settlement with Epstein, which was unsealed on 3 January, awarded Giuffre $500,000.
Their agreement contained a provision that stated it was releasing: “Second parties and any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant … from all, and all manner of, action and actions of Virginia [Giuffre], including state or federal, cause and causes of action.”
Andrew was not mentioned by name in this settlement.
Kaplan pointed out that this push for dismissal largely relied on the royal’s discussion of the 2009 agreement.
Kaplan said: “The law prohibits the court from considering, at this stage of the proceedings, the defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial.”
He continued: “In a similar vein and for similar reasons, it is not open to the court now to decide, as a matter of fact, just what the parties to the release in the 2009 settlement agreement signed by Ms Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein actually meant.
“The court’s job at this juncture is simply to determine whether there are two or more reasonable interpretations of that document. If there are, the determination of the ‘right’ or controlling interpretation must await further proceedings.
“With limited exceptions, the motion must be decided solely on the basis of the allegations of the complaint without regard to any extraneous claims or materials,” Kaplan also wrote. “The 2009 agreement neither appears in nor is referred to” in Giuffre’s civil complaint.
The judge also rejected Andrew’s claims that Giuffre’s civil allegations against him lack necessary specificity.
“Ms Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous.’ It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse,” Kaplan wrote.
He said that Andrew’s position about the Giuffre complaint’s alleged vagueness, and how they limit his ability to mount a defense, was undermined by his denials.
“Moreover, the defendant’s assertion that he cannot reasonably prepare a response to plaintiff’s allegations plainly contradicts the content of his moving papers, in which he denies Ms Giuffre’s allegations in no uncertain terms,” he said.
Kaplan’s decision deals yet another blow to the embattled British prince, whose reputation and standing within the royal family has been saddled by his ties to Epstein and Maxwell.
High-profile criminal proceedings against Epstein and Maxwell over the past two years have further damaged his reputation.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late British press titan Robert Maxwell, was found guilty of five counts for luring girls as young as 14 into Epstein’s world for him to sexually abuse and is currently facing years behind bars when she is sentenced, at a date yet to be set.
Epstein, who in addition to Prince Andrew counted former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump in his circle, killed himself in a Manhattan jail about a month after his July 2019 arrest on sex-trafficking charges.
Giuffre has claimed that Prince was “sweating profusely all over me” at a London nightclub on a night when they allegedly had a sexual encounter.
Prince Andrew said in a disastrous BBC interview that Giuffre’s statement about his perspiration could not be true, claiming: “I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time.”
Prince Andrew also maintained that on the evening cited by Giuffre, he went with his daughter, Beatrice, to a late-afternoon children’s party at a Pizza Express in Woking. After the party, Prince Andrew claims, he was at home with his children all night.
As part of Giuffre’s suit, her legal team has requested documents that would prove whether or not Prince Andrew can sweat.
Sigrid McCawley, one of Giuffre’s lawyers, said of Kaplan’s ruling: “Today’s decision by Judge Kaplan denying Prince Andrew’s effort to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s case against him is another important step in Virginia’s heroic and determined pursuit of justice as a survivor of sex trafficking.”
Shortly after Kaplan’s decision, a development emerged involving the juror in Maxwell’s criminal case who has caused a stir over discrepancies between a post-trial media interview about past sexual abuse and his disclosures during the jury screening process.
A court filing revealed on Wednesday that this juror’s attorney asked for a copy of his completed screening questionnaire, where he was asked to provide answers about any history of abuse.
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )