A federal judge in New York on Wednesday declined to dismiss a sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew, who is being sued by a woman who claims she was forced to have sex with him while she was a minor and under the control of former financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Judge Lewis Kaplan said in his ruling that he denied "in all respects" the duke's attempts to stop the case.
The decision is the latest blow against Andrew, who has consistently denied the accusations of Virginia Giuffre, now 38, and a vocal critic of the justice system’s failures in the Epstein case. The Duke of York’s lawyers have unsuccessfully fought to have the civil lawsuit thrown out for months.
In the lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Giuffre says Andrew sexually abused her on multiple occasions between 2000 and 2002 while knowing that she was a sex trafficking victim under the age of 18. Specifically, Giuffre says she was forced to engage in sex acts with the duke in London, New York, and on Epstein's private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Andrew was a longtime friend and associate of Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and Epstein’s former girlfriend and recently convicted coconspirator, Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein killed himself in a federal detention center in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking and abusing dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14. Maxwell, 60, was found guilty of federal sex trafficking charges for her role in Epstein’s illicit operation on Dec. 29. She could face up to 65 years in prison.
Giuffre first publicly accused Andrew of sexual assault in a sworn statement for a different Epstein-related lawsuit in December 2014. She then sued Andrew for battery and emotional damages on Aug. 9, 2021, under New York’s Child Victims Act of 2019, a temporary law that allowed people over the age of 55 to file civil lawsuits related to childhood sexual abuse — no matter how long ago the incident — but only during a limited time period.
The duke and his legal team have fought from the beginning to make Giuffre's case go away. Andrew was able to avoid being served for nearly a month — and even then, his legal team at first claimed that he had not been properly presented with the official documents under UK and international law. (Kaplan rejected this argument in a ruling dated Sept. 17.)
Before the hearing, Kaplan rejected a defense motion that attempted to delay proceedings based on the argument that Giuffre primarily resides in Australia and not the United States. The judge also ordered the unsealing of a 2009 secret settlement between Epstein and Giuffre, which Andrew’s legal team claimed included a clause preventing her from suing the royal.
In the hearing, the duke’s lawyer Andrew Brettler questioned the constitutionality of the Child Victims Act and cited Giuffre’s 2009 settlement of a sex trafficking case against Epstein in his arguments to dismiss charges on Tuesday. He also argued that Giuffre had not been explicit enough in her allegations against Andrew, which led to a tense moment in the virtual courtroom.
"Ms. Giuffre doesn't articulate what supposedly happened to her at the hands of Prince Andrew," he said. “We do not know the details of the allegations, and it's time that we do before Prince Andrew should be required to answer these very serious allegations."
“That's not a dog that's going to hunt here,” Kaplan responded, saying that Giuffre’s claim that she had been forced to engage in sexual intercourse was specific enough for the current stage of the proceedings.
The judge emphasized this in his ruling. "Ms. Giuffre's complaint is neither 'unintelligible' nor 'vague' nor 'ambiguous,'" he wrote. "It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse."
Kaplan also shot down the defense's arguments about the constitutionality of the Child Victim's Act, saying that it had been upheld in the face of other legal challenges. (He called Brettler's argument "creative" but "without merit.")
A provision in the 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Epstein prohibits her from pursuing legal action against the financier and anyone who “could have been included as a potential defendant” in that matter. Although the document does not name Andrew, Brettler argued that he should be included in the “potential defendant” category.
Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies disagreed, saying that the 2009 settlement only concerned sex trafficking.
“There is no allegation that Prince Andrew was the person transporting. There is no allegation that Prince Andrew fell into the category of people who were doing the trafficking,” Boies said. “He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked."
Kaplan sided with Boies on this point in his opinion, saying the settlement does not preclude Andrew from facing Giuffre's accusations in a court of law.
"The 2009 agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, that the parties intended the instrument 'directly,' 'primarily,' or substantially 'to benefit Prince Andrew,'" he wrote. "The Court cannot rewrite the 2009 agreement to give the defendant rights where the agreement does not clearly manifest an intent to create them."
The next key date in the case is Jan. 14, when Giuffre’s legal team will respond to discovery requests from Andrew’s attorneys.
Andrew is ninth in line to the British throne. He stepped back from royal life following a disastrous BBC interview in November 2019, in which he denied dancing with or meeting Giuffre — despite having been pictured with his arm around her waist (Andrew said he had no memory of the photograph being taken). He also disputed Giuffre’s allegation that he sweated on her while dancing at a London club by claiming that he cannot perspire as a result of his military experience in the Falkland Islands.
Giuffre’s lawyers have requested as part of the discovery process proof of this medical condition and evidence that he was, as he told the BBC, attending a birthday party at a Pizza Express with his daughter on the date of one of the alleged assaults.