Prince Andrew sex abuse hearing starts in New York
New York judge leaves Prince Andrew sweating as he decides whether to throw out sex assault lawsuit: Duke’s lawyers argue his accuser’s secret $500,000 deal with Epstein protects royal from being sued
- Andrew’s lawyers are arguing that $500,000 deal between Ms Giuffre and Epstein shields Duke from liability
- Ms Giuffre’s legal team claim that agreement is irrelevant to her complaint against the Queen’s second son
- Case takes place one day after a document was made public revealing the terms of the payout from Epstein
- Ms Giuffre’s lawyer says Andrew would not be ‘potential defendant’ as referred to in civil case documents
A New York judge is weighing up whether to throw out a sex assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew, with a decision set to be made ‘pretty soon’.
Earlier today, the lawyer for Andrew’s accuser Virginia Giuffre described the royal as ‘somebody to whom the girls were trafficked’ as a hearing in the bombshell case took place in New York.
Andrew’s lawyers are arguing that a $500,000 (£370,000) deal between Ms Giuffre and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein shields the Duke from liability, as she sues him for alleged sexual assault when she was a teenager.
Ms Giuffre’s legal team claim that the agreement is irrelevant to her complaint against the Queen’s second son and that the case must proceed – but the Duke’s legal team have now made their argument to dismiss the case.
Judge Lewis Kaplan is holding the case by video call a day after a document was made public revealing the terms of the payout from Epstein. The document detailed Ms Giuffre had in 2009 agreed to ‘release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge’ Epstein and ‘any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant’.
David Boies, the lawyer acting on behalf of Ms Giuffre, who used to be known as Virginia Roberts, said Andrew would not be a ‘potential defendant’ as referred to in the civil case documents released yesterday for two reasons.
He told the judge: ‘The only claim that is asserted that was made in Florida in the 2009 action that covered Prince Andrew was the third count which was to transport somebody for the purpose of illegal sexual activity. There is no allegation that Prince Andrew was the person transporting. There is no allegation that Prince Andrew fell into the category of people who were doing the trafficking. He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked.’
The case took place as Andrew’s children – Princess Beatrice, with her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, and Princess Eugenie, with her husband Jack Brooksbank – were pictured in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier today.
They appeared in good spirits, with Beatrice and Mr Mozzi strolling the streets of the exclusive resort, where the Duke of York owns a luxury chalet. Eugenie and Mr Brooksbank spent the day skiing on the slopes overlooking the home. The Duchess of York remained at the traditional-style £17million chalet with views of the Bagnes Valley.
Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, now known as Virginia Giuffre, at Ghislaine Maxwell’s townhouse in London in 2001
Virginia Giuffre with her lawyer David Boies outside a court in New York at the time of a previous hearing in August 2019
Today’s hearing was held between the parties’ representatives via video conference with press and public able to listen in by telephone.
Ms Giuffre alleges that Epstein lent her out for sex with his wealthy and powerful associates, including Andrew, an allegation the prince has repeatedly and strenuously denied.
How Andrew is trying to have sex assault case thrown out today
Prince Andrew’s lawyers are appearing at a New York court today to try and get his sex assault case dismissed.
Virginia Giuffre, 38, claims she was 17 when she slept with Andrew three times in 2001 under orders from Epstein, a friend of the duke. She is suing for claims of battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Andrew has called her accusations ‘baseless’ and repeatedly denied them, claiming that she is seeking a ‘payday at his expense’.
His lawyers are today using details of a $500,000 settlement reached in 2009 between Ms Giuffre and Epstein to block the case against the Duke.
They will argue that Andrew was essentially identified as a defendant in that settlement and so Ms Giuffre signed away the right to sue him.
The unsealed court papers revealed that she agreed to ‘release, acquit, satisfy and for ever discharge’ Epstein and ‘any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant’.
Andrew is not named in the settlement but his lawyers believe he is covered as a ‘potential defendant’.
The document also references the term ‘royalty’, something the duke’s lawyers also suggest gives them ‘strong legal ground’ to dismiss the case.
It says: ‘In addition to being continually exploited to satisfy the defendant’s every sexual whim, (she) was also required to be sexually exploited by (Epstein’s) adult male peers, including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen, and/or other professional and personal acquaintances.’
His lawyers believe the document gives him a strong case to have the claims against him dismissed, though experts say its wording is ‘vague’.
If unsuccessful, Andrew faces the prospect of a lengthy discovery and deposition process that could involve close members of family and his police protection officers, ahead of a trial in the autumn.
Andrew B Brettler, the lawyer for the Duke, said today that a potential defendant was ‘someone who was not named as a defendant but could have been’.
He told Judge Kaplan that a potential defendant would be someone Ms Giuffre knew that she had ‘claims against at the time that she filed the lawsuit’ in 2009.
Judge Kaplan said ‘potential’ was a phrase that neither he nor Mr Brettler could ‘find any meaning at all’ in.
Mr Brettler told Judge Kaplan that the Duke ‘could have been sued’ but was not.
Andrew’s lawyer said Ms Giuffre needed to allege ‘today’ what her complaint against the duke is. Mr Brettler said: ‘We just want a date, a month, or even a year. All we know is that she was 17 years old.’
‘She has no obligation to do that in the complaint,’ Judge Kaplan responded.
Mr Brettler told Judge Kaplan that Ms Giuffre ‘doesn’t articulate’ what had allegedly happened to her at the hands of the duke.
He said she was over the age of consent in the state of New York and so needed to allege she was forced to have sex with the duke. Judge Kaplan said: ‘With all due respect, Mr Brettler, that’s not a dog that’s got a hunt here’ and that she had no obligation to do so.
He said he understood Mr Brettler’s point but ‘it just isn’t the law’. Mr Brettler said Ms Giuffre did not ‘explain how she was forcibly compelled’ under New York law.
He said her complaint needed to include ‘imminent threat of harm and there is no such allegation in her complaint’.
Continuing his arguments, the Duke’s lawyer told Judge Kaplan: ‘We don’t know what the conduct was.’ The judge replied: ‘Involuntary sexual intercourse. There’s no doubt what that means.’
Mr Brettler moved on to say ‘Prince Andrew should not be dragged into this court 20 years after.’ He said: ‘Witnesses die, witnesses may be incarcerated.’
Concluding his arguments, Mr Brettler said the case against his client filed by Ms Giuffre should ‘absolutely be dismissed’.
‘She has given plenty of interviews all over the world, then files this lawsuit. It is unfair, it is unjust, it should be dismissed.’
Mr Brettler told Judge Kaplan that Ms Giuffre was ‘healthy as far as we know’ and had not been prevented from contacting her lawyers during the pandemic.
He said she was ‘represented by sophisticated attorneys’. Judge Kaplan asked whether if another defendant with different representation made the same claim it could be seen as timely.
Mr Brettler said ‘not necessarily’ because he did not think the statute was constitutional and added that Ms Giuffre had had ‘every means of accessing the courthouse’ during the pandemic.
Andrew’s daughter Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are pictured today in Verbier, Switzerland
Andrew’s other daughter Princess Eugenie with her husband Jack Brooksbank in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier today
He said the complaint had been filed five days before the statute was expiring and that this was ‘inherently unfair and unjust….the case should be thrown out’.
Mr Boies, representing Ms Giuffre, said that the argument made by the Duke’s lawyers that the complaint was unconstitutional was inconsistent with what they had said in their motion to dismiss, where they had made ‘clear that they were attacking the legislative decision’ made at the time.
He said the complaint ‘makes clear with respect to the sexual intercourse and the sexual touching’ but that the argument of the duke’s lawyers today that ‘we have to allege some imminent threat of death’ was inconsistent with what they had said previously in the motion to dismiss where they had said Ms Giuffre and ‘other similarly situated individuals’ could have been considered not to have consented in situations where they did not ‘expressly acquiesce’.
He said that the issue of lack of consent was much wider than the ‘imminent threat of death’.
Mr Boies also said Andrew would not be a ‘potential defendant’ as referred to in the civil case documents released yesterday for two reasons.
Mr Boies said: ‘The only claim that is asserted that was made in Florida in the 2009 action that covered Prince Andrew was the third count which was to transport somebody for the purpose of illegal sexual activity.
Prince Andrew is interviewed for the BBC’s Newsnight in November 2019. In the interview, Andrew denied Ms Giuffre’s claim that they had shared a sweaty dance at a London nightclub, saying that at the time he could not sweat due to a condition
Prince Andrew walks through New York’s Central Park with Jeffrey Epstein following the latter’s prison term in 2011
‘There is no allegation that Prince Andrew was the person transporting. There is no allegation that Prince Andrew fell into the category of people who were doing the trafficking. He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked.’
The hearing then finished, with Judge Kaplan thanking both sides for the arguments and ‘the passions’.
He told them ‘you will have a decision pretty soon’ but declined to give any idea what ‘pretty soon’ meant. The judge also said the ‘scheduling order’ remained in effect while he deliberates.
A deal made public for the first time yesterday by a New York court shows that Ms Giuffre agreed to drop a civil claim against Epstein for $500,000 in Florida in 2009.
The settlement contained a provision that purports to protect ‘other potential defendants’ from being sued related to alleged sexual abuse committed by Epstein, who killed himself in jail two and a half years ago.
Ms Giuffre sued the prince for unspecified damages last year, alleging he sexually assaulted her in 2001 when she was 17 and a minor under American law.
The 61-year-old Andrew has not been criminally charged. Ms Giuffre says Andrew assaulted her at Epstein’s home in New York, and on his private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Ghislaine Maxwell gives Jeffrey Epstein a foot massage on his private jet dubbed the ‘Lolita Express’. The photo was entered into evidence in Maxwell’s case on December 7 by the US Attorney’s Office
She alleges he also sexually abused her at the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, who was last week found guilty of sex trafficking minors for Epstein.
Maxwell, who introduced Andrew to Epstein in the early 1990s, faces life behind bars after being convicted by New York jurors of five of the six counts she faced following a high-profile month-long trial.
Epstein died aged 66 in a Manhattan jail in 2019, in what New York’s coroner ruled was a suicide, after being charged with child sex trafficking charges.
He was convicted in 2008 of paying young girls for sexual massages at his Florida mansion but served just 13 months in jail after striking a deal with the state prosecutor at the time.
Andrew has rarely been seen in public since he was forced to quit the royal frontline in 2019 for failing to distance himself from Epstein.
A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell sitting as the guilty verdict in her sex abuse trial is read in New York last week
In a disastrous interview with the BBC that year, Andrew denied Ms Giuffre’s claim that they had shared a sweaty dance at a London nightclub, saying that at the time he could not sweat due to a condition related to having fought in the 1982 Falklands War.
Last week, Ms Giuffre’s lawyers demanded that Andrew hand over medical records proving that he is unable to sweat.
Andrew’s legal team has accused Ms Giuffre of seeking to profit from a ‘baseless lawsuit,’ which is still in its early days.
If the case proceeds and Ms Giuffre and Andrew are unable to reach a settlement then it could go before a jury trial, likely in the latter half of this year.
On Friday, judge Kaplan rejected their attempts to halt progression of the suit on the grounds that Ms Giuffre now lives in Australia.
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