Prince Andrew will have to answer accusations that he sexually abused Virginia Roberts Giuffre aged 17 after a judge denied his attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The decision on Wednesday by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan paves the way for Ms Giuffre’s lawyers to enter into a protracted discovery and deposition phase that could draw in other members of the royal family.
Ms Giuffre alleges that Jeffrey Epstein forced her to have sex with his friends, including the duke, and that Andrew was aware she was only 17 at the time. She is suing Prince Andrew for battery and infliction of emotional distress.
Prince Andrew, 61, has strongly denied the allegations, and claimed a 2009 non-prosecution agreement between Epstein and Ms Giuffre in Florida should absolve him of liability. He has said Ms Giuffre is seeking a “payday at his expense”.
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In his ruling, Judge Kaplan said the settlement deal could not shield Andrew from the civil lawsuit.
He said the key phrase Andrew’s lawyers relied upon – that “other potential defendants” were covered by the settlement deal – was “far from self evident for a number of reasons”.
“(Andrew) argues that he ‘could have been included’ as a ‘potential defendant’ in the Florida case because Ms Giuffre made a general reference to ‘royalty’ in her Florida complaint, even though it did not name Prince Andrew as a defendant nor even mention his name,” Judge Kaplan says in the decision.
The judge added that “there is no basis” that Andrew could have been included as a defendant in the 2009 case.
“The crux of the Florida Case was that Epstein harmed Ms Giuffre by trafficking her for sex with himself and others,” Judge Kaplan said.
“Yet there is no suggestion… that (Andrew) was himself engaged in sex trafficking.”
Judge Kaplan goes on to state: “The 2009 cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, that the parties intended the instrument ‘directly’, ‘primarily’, or ‘substantially’ to benefit Prince Andrew.”
Judge Kaplan said Andrew’s lawyers did not directly contest whether Ms Giuffre’s legal claim that she suffered battery and intentional emotional damage “satisfy the elements of those causes of action”.
The judge also was dismissive of arguments by Andrew’s attorney Andrew Brettler that Ms Giuffre’s complaint was too vague.
Ms Giuffre alleged in her lawsuit that she was trafficked to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions, in London, at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse, and on his private island Little St James in the US Virgin Islands.
“Ms Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous’. It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances in three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse,” Judge Kaplan said.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying: “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.’’
The royal’s relationship with Epstein, who authorities ruled died by suicide in prison in 2019, and convicted child sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell will also come under renewed scrutiny after the ruling.
During oral arguments last week, lawyers for both parties argued over whether a newly unsealed $500,000 settlement deal reached between Epstein and Ms Giuffre in 2009 should allow the case to be dismissed.
The settlement provided a release for “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant” against Ms Giuffre’s claims.
Judge Lewis Kaplan interrogated the prince’s lawyer Mr Brettler about whether the prince could be shielded from prosecution.
Mr Brettler responded: “Prince Andrew could have been sued but was not. Ms Giuffre intended to release royalty.”
The judge quipped: “Including the Sultan of Brunei?”
“If there are allegations against him,” Mr Brettler said.
Mr Brettler claimed the allegations in the suit were vague, and failed to specify when and where the alleged abuse took place.
“We don’t even have a date, a time, a location, and even an apartment,” the attorney said.
“Before Prince Andrew must answer, he should be told specifically what all the allegations are.”
Judge Kaplan disagreed, saying: “That dog is not going to hunt. She has no obligation to do that in the complaint, only in discovery.”
Mr Brettler went on to say the prince’s alleged misconduct had not been laid out in the complaint.
Judge Kaplan responded emphatically with a reference to an unnamed former US president: “Involuntary sexual intercourse. There’s no doubt what that means, at least since someone else was in the White House.”
For Ms Giuffre, attorney David Boise said the 2009 agreement should not apply to Prince Andrew as it covered separate allegations.
“There’s no allegation that Prince Andrew was the trafficker. He was a person to whom the girls were trafficked,” Mr Boise said.
Last Monday, a secret settlement deal between Epstein and Ms Giuffre was unsealed by Judge Kaplan which had formed a key part of the royal’s legal arguments to throw out the lawsuit.
The 2009 deal between the dead paedophile and Ms Giuffre revealed she was paid $500,000 (£370,000) to settle all claims against Epstein and his associates.
Prince Andrew could be stripped of his title as Duke of York and face an “internal exile” from the royal family should he lose the civil case.
Judge Kaplan has previously said a trial could begin between September and December of 2022.