Civil claim against duke by longtime accuser Virginia Giuffre can move forward, federal judge rules in New York
This article contains descriptions of sexual abuse
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 coerced her into having sex with Andrew in London. 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: “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.
Kaplain 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.
Kaplan also pointed out that Giuffre’s previous lawsuit against Epstein based on her being abused in Florida, where Epstein had a mansion in Palm Beach, while mentioning “royalty” as among her abusers, did not specifically indicate that she was referring to Andrew.
“Yet there is no suggestion in the Florida case that this defendant was himself engaged in sex trafficking,” he wrote.
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 vagaries, and how they limit his ability to mount a defense, is undermined by his denials.
“'[The] defendant nevertheless holds out that he cannot reasonably prepare a response because plaintiff has not described ‘what purported sexual contact occurred … when and where the incident occurred, or the forcible compulsion she was under due to express or implied threat’ to the degree of specificity that he would like,” Kaplan said.
“While he understandably seeks more detail about the precise details of plaintiff’s claims, he will be able to obtain that detail during pretrial discovery.”
“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, 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