NEW YORK — After weeks of refusing to engage, Prince Andrew acknowledged through his lawyer that he has been served with a lawsuit by an American woman who says he sexually assaulted her, clearing a hurdle that had initially stalled the case.
The Duke of York’s lawyer signed a joint agreement, which was approved by a Manhattan federal Judge and made public.
According to court papers, Andrew was denying the suit’s acceptance until lawyers spoke by telephone on Sept. 21. According to Judge Lewis Kaplan’s order, an agreement was reached three days later.
In the lawsuit, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 38, accuses Andrew, 61, of rape and sexual assault, claiming she was sex-trafficked to him at age 17 by Andrew’s former friend, the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and that the prince knew it at the time.
His lawyer has called the allegations “baseless.”
Delivering, or “serving,” a lawsuit to a defendant is usually a routine matter but can be more complicated when a defendant resides outside the United States.
A judge must determine that the defendant has been given notice of the allegations and has given a reasonable amount of time to reply to them. The lawsuit demands that the prince respond to the claims by October 29. A conference was set for Nov. 3.
According to Giuffre’s legal team and court documents, Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II,’s second son, was served twice before he received them directly.
Earlier this month, the papers were delivered to his Los Angeles-based lawyer, Andrew Brettler, through FedEx. And last month a process server in London left the lawsuit papers at the guarded front gate of his residence, Royal Lodge on the Windsor Castle estate, on Aug. 27.
Andrew’s London lawyers challenged the validity of the international rules for service. Eventually, a British high court official accepted a request from Giuffre’s lawyers to formally contact Andrew about the lawsuit.
Brettler, who signed the papers on Andrew’s behalf acknowledging the prince was aware of the lawsuit, had argued at a hearing this month that Giuffre’s claim was “baseless, nonviable and potentially unlawful.”
Andrew has strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations ever since she started publicly making them in 2015. In late 2019, in an interview with the BBC, Andrew said he never met Giuffre or had sex with Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”
Brettler has said Andrew cannot be sued because an earlier Giuffre lawsuit in the United States that was settled “absolves our client from any and all liability.” That 2009 settlement document, however, remains sealed.
Andrew’s London lawyers so far have not responded publicly to the lawsuit. It’s unclear if the American lawyer who served the lawsuit on Andrew represents a shift in his legal strategy.
Giuffre, who is originally from Florida and now lives in Western Australia, has done multiple media interviews in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom discussing her allegations against Andrew.
Contributing: Maria Puente USA TODAY