A crunch week in Prince Andrew’s fight to avoid a public trial over claims he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old trafficked by the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein begins on Monday, when a New York court unseals a confidential 2009 deal between Epstein and the alleged victim.
Lawyers for the Duke of York, who “unequivocally denies” the claims made by Virginia Giuffre, believe her agreement with Epstein could shield him from her civil lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse in 2001.
Epstein, a former friend of the Duke of York, was convicted of sex offences in 2008 and killed himself while in jail in 2019 awaiting trial on further sex trafficking charges. His close associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, also a former friend of Prince Andrew, was last week convicted of sex trafficking in a federal court in New York and faces up to 65 years in prison.
After the unsealing of the deal, lawyers for Prince Andrew will argue to Judge Lewis A Kaplan, sitting at the US district court in the southern district of New York in lower Manhattan, that the agreement between Giuffre and Epstein means she cannot take action against their client.
Lawyers for Giuffre, known as Virginia Roberts when she claims she was introduced to the prince, have dismissed the attempts to halt the civil case as “just another in a series of tired attempts by Prince Andrew to duck and dodge the legal merits of the case”.
But Prince Andrew’s lawyers have told the court that Giuffre is pursuing a “baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense” and that “sensationalism and innuendo have prevailed over the truth”. They claim his “sullied reputation” is collateral damage of the Epstein scandal.
At stake is not just Prince Andrew’s future and Giuffre’s pursuit of justice, but the international reputation of the British royal family. Buckingham Palace on Sunday denied as “uninformed speculation” reports that courtiers may have to ask Prince Andrew to stop using his title if he loses the lawsuit brought by Giuffre. It said it would not comment on ongoing legal matters and also played down reports he would have to step back from his role as colonel-in-chief of nine military regiments, units and corps.
In other developments, Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother Ian Maxwell, 65, said she maintained her innocence and had no plans to cut a deal with prosecutors to provide evidence against other people who were involved in her and Epstein’s sexual abuse.
“Prosecution confirmed no plea bargain offers were made or received” before the trial, he told the Sunday Times. “I expect that position to be maintained.” He also said his sister was not a suicide risk as she awaits sentencing.
It also emerged Giuffre could be permitted to deliver a victim impact statement at Maxwell’s sentencing. Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Giuffre, told the Daily Telegraph that she anticipates the court will hear from “many, many other women who were not able to be heard at the trial”.
And Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, told the Mail on Sunday that there are “four, five, six witnesses” capable of placing Giuffre together with Prince Andrew. The Duke told the BBC in 2019 that he had “no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever”.
Prince Andrew’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, has told the court that Giuffre’s agreement with Epstein provided “a general release of all claims against him and numerous other individuals and entities” and that Prince Andrew is “axiomatically among the releasees”.
The same agreement was the basis for Giuffre agreeing to dismiss a battery claim against the lawyer Alan Dershowitz earlier this year, Brettler said.
He will also argue that the case should be thrown out because Giuffre, a US citizen, no longer lives in the US.
If the judge orders the case to continue, Prince Andrew could ultimately face a trial involving him making a statement under oath.
Prince Andrew claimed in a 2019 BBC Newsnight interview that he was at a Pizza Express in Woking on the day in 2001 that Giuffre claims she was with him at the Tramp nightclub. He also addressed her claims that he was sweaty at the nightclub by saying he was incapable of sweating at that time because of an “overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands war”.
But asked for evidence of both things by Giuffre’s legal team, his lawyers have as yet put nothing forward, according to court documents.