A judge gave the green light on Wednesday to a lawsuit by an American woman who says Britain’s Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was 17.
US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in an opinion that Andrew’s lawyers failed to successfully challenge the constitutionality of Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit.
Giuffre sued the prince in August 2021, saying she was coerced into sexual encounters with Andrew in 2001 by Jeffrey Epstein and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell.
His lawyers had said that the lawsuit lacked specificity and was disqualified by a deal she reached in 2009 with lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein. They also attacked the credibility and motives of Giuffre, saying in October that the lawsuit was aimed at achieving “another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him.” The prince’s lawyers have said that Andrew never sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre and that he unequivocally denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.
The prince himself has strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations. In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that sex with Giuffre didn’t happen and he has no recollection of ever meeting her.
The interview was widely panned by critics who said Andrew seemed insensitive to Epstein’s victims. Afterward, the prince stepped back from royal duties.
On Wednesday, his lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Buckingham Palace told The Associated Press that it would not comment on the “ongoing legal matter.”
Meanwhile, Kaplan noted that he was required by law, at this stage of the litigation, to proceed as if the allegations made by Giuffre are true.
“The law prohibits the Court from considering at this stage of the proceedings defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial,” Kaplan said.
Giuffre’s settlement with Epstein was reached a decade before the financier killed himself at a Manhattan lockup as he awaited a sex trafficking trial in 2019.
But Kaplan wrote that there were substantial indications in the USD 500,000 settlement that Epstein and Giuffre did not clearly intend for language to directly, primarily, or substantially benefit someone such as the prince. He noted that the prince was not a party to the agreement.
He also said the agreement was far from a model of clear and precise drafting. The judge’s findings mirrored comments he made during oral arguments by both sides when he was particularly dismissive of the arguments made on the prince’s behalf.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial, while Maxwell, 60, was recently convicted of sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in a federal court in New York. Giuffre’s allegations against Andrew were not a part of either criminal case.
(The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they choose to come forward publicly, as Giuffre has.)