Prince Andrew asks to dismiss US sex case, judge to rule soon
January 5, 2022 11:57 AM
Prince Andrew's lawyers pressed a New York judge Tuesday to dismiss a sexual assault lawsuit brought against the British royal, arguing he was protected by a previously confidential settlement that his accuser signed in 2009.
Lawyer Andrew Brettler said Virginia Giuffre had "waived her rights" to sue other defendants in relation to alleged sex crimes committed by late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Judge Lewis Kaplan did not make an immediate ruling but appeared to express skepticism at Andrew's argument, questioning how a third-party could enforce a secret agreement that it didn't know about.
Hour-long oral arguments in the civil action filed by Giuffre -- also a longtime accuser of Epstein's companion, the convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell -- were held via video conference with the public able to listen in by telephone.
Giuffre alleges that Epstein lent her out for sex with his wealthy and powerful associates, including to Andrew, an allegation that Queen Elizabeth II's second son has repeatedly and strenuously denied.
The deal made public for the first time Monday by a New York court showed that Giuffre agreed to drop a civil claim against Epstein for $500,000.
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 in 2019.
Brettler described it as "unambiguous" and argued that it protected the prince from litigation.
"Miss Giuffre intended to release a broad category of individuals, including royalty, including businessmen," Brettler said.
"She waived her rights to sue them when she entered into the 2009 release agreement and accepted the money from Mr. Epstein."
But the judge said that neither he nor Brettler could "find any meaning at all" in the word "potential."
"You'll have a decision pretty soon, but I'm not going to define that further," Kaplan said at the end of the hearing.
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.
She says Andrew assaulted her at Epstein's home in New York, and on Epstein's private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Giuffre's lawyer David Boies argued that the Epstein-Giuffre agreement was unrelated to Andrew because it was signed in Florida.
"Prince Andrew was not subject to jurisdiction," he told judge Kaplan.
Giuffre alleges Andrew also sexually abused her at the London home of Maxwell, who last week was found guilty of sex trafficking minors for Epstein.
The 61-year-old Andrew has not been criminally charged.
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 what New York's coroner ruled was a suicide, after being charged with child sex trafficking.
Back in 2008 he was convicted 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.
In a disastrous interview with the BBC that year, Andrew denied 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, Giuffre's lawyers demanded that Andrew hand over medical records proving that he is unable to sweat.
Andrew's legal team has accused Giuffre of seeking to profit from a "baseless lawsuit," which is still in its early days.
If the case proceeds and 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, Kaplan rejected attempts by Andrew's lawyers to halt progression of the suit on the grounds that Giuffre now lives in Australia.