Sexual abuse case can proceed, judge says

NEW YORK — A judge gave the green light Wednesday to a lawsuit against Prince Andrew by an American woman who says he sexually abused her when she was 17.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan stated in an opinion that Andrew’s lawyers failed to challenge the constitutionality the August lawsuit Virginia Giuffre brought against him.

His lawyers had said that the lawsuit lacked specificity and was disqualified by a deal she reached in 2009 with lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein.

Wednesday’s messages for comment were not returned by the lawyers. Buckingham Palace didn’t immediately respond to The Associated Press’ request for comment, but told U.K. news agency PA Media that it “would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”

That settlement of a lawsuit was reached a decade before Epstein killed himself at a Manhattan lockup as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.

Prince Andrew in January 2020, arriving at a church service in Norfolk, in eastern England.

Previous:Prince Andrew judge seems skeptical that secret settlement invalidates sexual-abuse lawsuit

The Duke of York, 61, Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, is being sued by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 38, an accuser of convicted sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein. She alleges Andrew raped and sexually assaulted her, claiming that Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial, trafficked her to the prince in New York in 2001 when she was 17 and that the prince knew it at the time.

The prince has vehemently denied Giuffre’s accusations since she began making them publicly in January 2015. Andrew’s legal team has argued the claims are false and that her lawsuit is aimed at achieving “another payday at his expense.”

But Kaplan wrote that there were substantial indications in the $500,000 settlement that Epstein and Giuffre did not clearly intend for language in the deal to “directly,” “primarily,” or “substantially” to 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.

Giuffre sued the prince in August, saying she was coerced into sexual encounters with the prince in 2001 by Epstein and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Kaplan noted that he was required by law at this stage of the litigation to assume 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.

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 federal court in New York. Giuffre’s allegations against Andrew were not a part of either criminal case.

Assuming the case goes to trial, Kaplan has scheduled it for the last quarter of 2022, depending on the pandemic. 

More:Prince Andrew accuser’s settlement with Jeffrey Epstein unsealed, her lawyer says it’s ‘irrelevant’

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