American judge skeptical of Prince Andrew’s attempt to reject trial on sexual assault

A US judge on Tuesday appeared skeptical of a bid by Britain’s Prince Andrew to reject Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit, which accused the Duke of York of sexually abusing her when she was 17 and being trafficked by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

During a hearing in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan heard arguments over the prince’s claim that the terms of a 2009 settlement between Epstein and Giuffre that paid her $ 500,000 to resolve a lawsuit she had filed against the financier prevented her from pursuing a lawsuit against Andrew.

A provision in that settlement blocked Giuffre from suing certain third parties in the future, with language to “forever dismiss” various people who “could have been included as a potential defendant” in her settled lawsuit against Epstein.

Settlements of U.S. civil lawsuits may prevent the plaintiff from pursuing further litigation, even against third parties.

Andrew has denied Giuffre’s allegations that he forced her to have sex more than two decades ago in London’s home to former Epstein co-worker Ghislaine Maxwell, and abused her at two other Epstein properties.

At the hearing, the Prince’s Los Angeles – based lawyer Andrew Brettler said that Queen Elizabeth’s second son was protected from Giuffre’s lawsuit under the terms of the settlement with Epstein, who did not acknowledge responsibility.

“‘Potential defendant’ is someone who could have been named a defendant in that lawsuit, but was not,” Brettler said. “I think there’s no doubt that Prince Andrew could have been sued in the Florida action in 2009.”

Kaplan said the key issue in Prince Andrew’s case was what Giuffre and Epstein meant, noting that “we do not have Mr Epstein here” to explain how wide his release was.

“We’re talking about whether there are two or more reasonable interpretations,” Kaplan told Brettler. “I understand your point of view. I understand the other point of view.”

Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies said the deal did not excuse the prince because Giuffre did not claim that Andrew was “a trafficker”, but rather “someone to whom girls became traffickers”.

Kaplan said he would make a decision on Andrews’ dismissal motion “pretty soon”, but was not specific. The judge has said that a trial can begin between September and December if no settlement is reached.

Epstein committed suicide at the age of 66 in a prison cell in Manhattan 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted on December 29 of recruiting and caring for Epstein’s girls for assault between 1994 and 2004.

Giuffre’s allegations were not part of that case, and she did not testify.

“Huge burden”

Although the prince is not accused of crime, his ties to Epstein have cost him many royal duties and damaged his reputation. His problem grew after critics said he failed in a 2019 BBC interview to appear sympathetic to Epstein’s victims of abuse.

Giuffre sued Andrew for unspecified damages less than a week before the expiration of a New York law that gave prosecutors a two-year period to sue for alleged child abuse that occurred long ago.

Andrew has said that Giuffre is looking for another “Saturday” in her campaign against Epstein and former collaborators such as Maxwell, from which she sought $ 50 million in a defamation lawsuit decided since 2015.

During the hearing, Brettler said it was “inherently unfair and unfair” for Giuffre to wait so long to sue and expose the prince to the “enormous burden” of finding witnesses and materials to defend herself against her decades-old claims.

Kaplan rejected Brettler’s claim that the dismissal of the lawsuit was justified because Giuffre did not provide sufficient details about the prince’s alleged abuse.

“She has no obligation to do so in a complaint,” Kaplan told Brettler. “I say it, straight out, right now. It will not happen.”

(Reuters)

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