Can the Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein deal protect Prince Andrew?

Lawyers make case for why the 2009 settlement might cover the royal and why it might not

The merits of Virginia Giuffre’s sex assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew are still far from being tested in court. In New York on Tuesday, lawyers for the prince asked a judge, Lewis Kaplan, to stop the case ever getting there.

Commenting on the case, other New York lawyers were doubtful that Andrew’s legal team would be successful and questioned why the prince’s representatives had not settled out-of-court.

Andrew says he has no memory of meeting Giuffre and vehemently denies alleged assaults in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands when Giuffre was 17.

On Tuesday, the lawyer Andrew Brad Brettler argued that the case against the prince should be thrown out, on the basis of a 2009 financial settlement between Giuffre and the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Kaplan released the text of the 2009 settlement on Monday. It showed Giuffre agreed to “remise, release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharge the said second parties and any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.

Brettler also said Giuffre’s claims were not adequately described in her complaint against Andrew, which he said was filed just five days short of the closing of a statute of limitations window in the New York state Child Victims Act.

Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor, a law firm with clients including a woman who alleges rape and harassment by the Wall Street financier and Epstein associate Leon Black and claimants in civil suits against the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, said Andrew was almost certainly not covered by the 2009 agreement.

Imprecise wording suggests the existence of a second agreement with named parties that has never come to light, Christensen said.

“Aside from the fact that it’s horribly worded with over-broad, vague language, it really should not be sustained because it could cover anybody Epstein knows,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter who [Andrew’s] lawyers think falls within that definition. It’s not going to be of help.”

The lawyer Alan Dershowitz has claimed the agreement releases him from Giuffre’s claims against him.

But Christensen said: “I don’t see how any person could fit within that definition without there being a second agreement that specifically names individuals.”

Eric Baum, an attorney representing a woman in civil sexual misconduct claims against the American Apparel founder, Dov Charney, and restaurateur Mario Batali, said Prince Andrew and his legal team were “grasping at straws”.

“They have concocted a baseless defense to serious allegations of sexual assault,” he said. “Prince Andrew’s lawyers are attempting to rely on a settlement agreement that was entered into between Epstein and Ms Giuffre in a different court.

“Prince Andrew was not a party in that case, was not mentioned by name in the release and has not provided anything in return for the release he seeks to use. In essence, Prince Andrew’s legal team’s argument would let any individual who commits a wrongdoing against Ms Giuffre off the hook because of the release she signed with Epstein.”

Others were less certain that the Epstein settlement does not cover Andrew, since it was made years after alleged assaults which Giuffre would have had in mind when she and her lawyers agreed to the “potential defendant” language.

Julie Rendelman, a New York criminal defence lawyer, said: “The question is, when she’s signing this agreement with Epstein she would have been well aware that Prince Andrew would have been one of the potential respondents in a civil lawsuit, and she chose to go forward with it.

“She would have known full well that he could be articulated as being included in that.”

At the end of last week, there was a sense that criminal prosecutions arising from Epstein’s behaviour could end with the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, his former girlfriend, on sex-trafficking charges. On Tuesday, Judge Kaplan said he would decide “soon” if the civil case against Prince Andrew should be dismissed.

But Christensen, of Wigdor, doubted that the affair was close to an end.

“I don’t think it’s over, and that’s partly because Epstein is becoming an even bigger issue in my own litigation,” she said.

For a New York attorney, Christensen added, it was hard to fathom why the Giuffre-Prince Andrew lawsuit had not been settled.

“I can’t believe they haven’t gotten rid of it already. I don’t get it, but then we don’t have a monarchy. It’s a head-scratcher that it’s ongoing to the degree that it is.”


Edward Helmore in New York

The GuardianTramp

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