The Royalty's Royal Tea
Prince Andrew vs Virginia Giuffre
Plaintiff: Ms. Virginia Giuffre
Defendant: Prince Andrew
Defendant’s allies: Ghislaine Maxwell (guilty), Jeffrey Epstein (deceased)
Set: New York Federal Court
“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me.” Prince Andrew, Duke of York, has been sued in the New York federal courts by Virginia Giuffre, one of the primary accusers in the infamous Jeffrey Epstein case. What does the case entail? How has the Duke responded?
Scene 1: Allegations
“The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions.”
Giuffre, an alleged victim of convicted sex offender and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, says she was forced to perform sex acts with Andrew, at a time when she was underage in the US, between 2000 and 2002. Giuffre says the assaults happened in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands, that Andrew was aware she was a minor victim being forced to commit these acts.
In her complaint Giuffre claimed that she was "compelled by express or implied threats" by Epstein, his then-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, and Andrew himself to have sex with the duke.
Giuffre was one of many women to accuse Epstein. Epstein committed suicide while under detention for charges of sexually trafficking and abusing dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14. Epstein's arrest and suicide drew attention to Maxwell's role as well as his relationships with prominent figures like former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Britain's Prince Andrew and billionaire investor Leon Black.
Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty by a US jury on sexual abuse charges.
Scene 2: The Defense
“It didn't happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
Publicly, Andrew has consistently denied the claims. In a tell all interview with BBC in 2019, Andrew admitted his visits to Epstein’s property were wrong, however, he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, and he did not explicitly express sympathy for his former friend's victims. Shortly after the interview aired, Andrew announced that he was "stepping back" from royal public duties.
Prince Andrew’s attorneys are pulling every stop, using multiple motions in hopes the case gets dismissed before formal hearing, or at minimum to get out of the doghouse in the media trial.
1. Changing the Narrative
“It is unfortunate, but undeniable, that sensationalism and innuendo have prevailed over the truth.”
Andrew's attorneys attempted to change the shape of the trial by turning the tables on Giuffre. In multiple filed documents, they did acknowledge Giuffre as a victim of abuse by Epstein, however in the same breath they paint her as a money-driven and wilful participant in the trafficking scheme.
“(Giuffre) was trained to and did, in fact, recruit other young women into Epstein's sex trafficking ring," and has since "milked the publicity for all she could."
"Most people could only dream of obtaining the sums of money that Giuffre has secured for herself over the years, this presents a compelling motive for Giuffre to continue filing frivolous lawsuits against individuals such as Prince Andrew."
In October court filings, attorneys for Prince Andrew cited reports from multiple newspapers, including statements from Ms Giuffre’s ex-boyfriend Philip Guderyon to the New York Daily News in 2015, headlined “Jeffrey Epstein accuser was not a sex slave, but a money-hungry sex kitten, her former friends say”.
The federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, rejected these attempts for dismissal as an apparent PR stunt
2. Claiming age of consent
Prince Andrew then moved on to a plea for dismissal, saying the accuser was the age of consent at the time.
Giuffre filed the lawsuit under the New York Child Victims Act, days before it expired in August. The act is used to protect victims under the age of 18, but the state’s age of consent is 17, leaving the issue of consent unsettled. According to a memo, lawyers for Andrew say Giuffre's claims are based on evidence that is "not a reasonable mechanism" to be used under the Act, which allowed accusers to sue beyond the statute of limitations.
They also called to action the ‘highly subjective’ nature of Giuffre’s memory of consenting.
"These highly subjective determinations are the kind most likely to be hampered by the passage of time, as memories fade, false memories are created, and witnesses die or otherwise become unavailable," the motion reads.
Kaplan still has to rule on Andrew's motion to dismiss the case, so it's too early to say whether there will actually be a trial or not.
3. Bring in the Epstein Settlement
"There has been a settlement agreement that the plaintiff has entered into in a prior action that releases the Duke and others from any and all potential liability,"
At a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the prince's lawyer Andrew Brettler also said the plaintiff Virginia Giuffre appeared to have in 2009 signed away her right to sue Queen Elizabeth's second son in resolving a separate lawsuit. The settlement, known as the Epstein settlement can be the potential game changer, making Giuffre’s accusations unlawful. The same settlement led to Giuffre’s case against prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz to be dismissed.
A federal judge ordered that the details from the settlement be made public absent any objections from Epstein’s estate. Ms Giuffre’s attempt to dismiss the settlement from her case against Prince Andrew is “completely without merit”, Judge Kaplan wrote.
Scene 3: The Settlement: A get out of jail free card?
“There is no Prince Andrew clause.”
In 2009, in a court case between Giuffre and Epstein in Florida, a confidential pact was signed, today referred to as the Epstein Settlement. Up until 3rd Jan, 2022, the contents of the settlement remained a secret, while many speculated it stopped Giuffre from suing anyone else, essentially a firewall to protect Epstein’s associates. Its implications for the Prince Andrew case remained conflicted. The duke’s lawyers believed the agreement “absolves our client from any and all liability.” But Giuffre’s lawyers argued that it is “irrelevant to the case”.
The 2009 settlement, involving a payoff of $500,000, provided a release from liability for “any other person or entity” who could have been a defendant against claims by Giuffre.
However, Giuffre’s team maintained that Prince Andrew is not a potential defendant under the settlement’s terms partly because the paragraph does not name the Prince, and partly because the Florida case involved completely different federal claims and Andrew was not subject to jurisdiction in Florida.
On 12th January, Judge Kaplan denied the attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. In his ruling, Judge Kaplan said the settlement deal could not shield Andrew from the civil lawsuit. The judge added that “there is no basis” that Andrew could have been included as a defendant in the 2009 case.
Scene 4: The Ins and Outs and the Procedural Whereabouts
1. The Police
"Despite pressure from the media and claims of new evidence, the Met have concluded that the claims are not sufficient to warrant any further investigation. “
British police have said they will be taking no further action after conducting a review of evidence relating to sex crime allegations against Queen Elizabeth's son, Prince Andrew, and the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein.
In August, London's police chief, Cressida Dick, said detectives would revisit the allegations for a third time but not launch an investigation, after Ms Giuffre filed a lawsuit in the US.
2. The Prince
Andrew has previously been accused of not cooperating with attempts to interview him as a person of interest and a crucial part of the investigation into the alleged sex trafficking ring of Epstein and Maxwell.
If Giuffre's court case continues, he will likely have to reckon with the mid-July deadline to answer questions under oath.
Until then, though, he is not scheduled to appear in court and is unlikely to speak to the media about the case.
3. The Royals
Andrew, now facing a tarnished public standing, and pressure from public and media, stepped back from royal duties in 2019. Since then, he has barely made public appearances.
The scandal has wider implications for the royal family, landing right amidst the scandal of racism in the Buckingham Palace after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview.
While the monarch and other senior royals have so far avoided damage to their own reputations as a result of the Giuffre case, the prospect of Andrew being forced to answer questions under oath will be an unwelcome one for the wider institution.
Giuffre’s attorney may seek to depose Meghan Markle as part of Giuffre’s civil suit, citing three main reasons-
Her US residence puts her under federal jurisdiction
Her close association with Andrew as part of the royal family gives her crucial information
She can be counted on to give an accurate account
He also said that as many as 10 or 12 third parties could be deposed including the prince’s ex-wife, brother and other close contacts.
“Andrew will be forced to give evidence under oath, he has no way of escaping that.”
As Giuffre’s case moves past the motion to dismiss by Andrew’s side, the suit will enter full discovery mode, in the course of which both Andrew and Giuffre will have to give videotaped oral depositions and answer written “interrogatories.” Judge Kaplan has previously said a trial could begin between September and December of 2022. What’s certain is that this case, and Ghislaine Maxwell’s incarceration goes far to show just how deep into high society the trafficking circle delved.
~ Devangi Sharma
The cases are Giuffre v. Prince Andrew, 21-cv-06702, and Giuffre v. Dershowitz, 19-cv-3377, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
CNN, Independent, BBC, ABC, The Week, Al Jazeera