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Prince Andrew to face civil sex case after US judge rules trial can go ahead
12 January 2022, 14:25 | Updated: 13 January 2022, 13:27
Prince Andrew's bid to have a sex assault lawsuit against him thrown out has failed, meaning the royal will face a civil sex case.
He is accused by Virginia Giuffre of having sex with her when she was a minor under US law, after she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein.
The royal, who denies all allegations against him, had hoped to have her lawsuit thrown out in light of a 2009 agreement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, who took his own life in prison.
That $500,000 settlement said Ms Giuffre had agreed to "release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge" Epstein and "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant".
Lawyers for Andrew had tried to get a judge to dismiss the case - but instead he has allowed it to proceed, meaning the duke faces a civil trial. Those proceedings are different to a criminal trial.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying: "We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter."
Judge Lewis Kaplan said the agreement between Epstein and Ms Giuffre "cannot be said" to benefit the royal.
He said in a ruling: "The 2009 Agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument 'directly,' 'primarily,' or 'substantially,' to benefit Prince Andrew.
"The existence of the requisite intent to benefit him, or others comparable to him, is an issue of fact that could not properly be decided on this motion even if defendant fell within the releasing language, which itself is ambiguous.
"Thus, independent of whether the release language applies to Prince Andrew, the agreement, at a minimum, is 'reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation' on the equally important question of whether this defendant may invoke it."
Speaking at a remote hearing to dismiss the case on January 4, Andrew Brettler, for Prince Andrew, said the Duke of York "could have been sued" by Ms Giuffre previously.
He also told Judge Lewis Kaplan that "Prince Andrew should not be dragged into this court 20 years after" the allegations are claimed to have happened, adding that "witnesses die, witnesses may be incarcerated".
He branded the lawsuit as "unfair… unjust" and claimed Ms Giuffre "doesn't articulate" what allegedly happened to her.
"We don't know what the conduct was," Mr Brettler told the judge, who replied: "Involuntary sexual intercourse. There's no doubt what that means."
Mr Brettler argued the lawsuit "absolutely be dismissed".
Ms Giuffre's lawyer, David Boies, told the judge that Andrew would not have been a "potential defendant", as described in the 2009 settlement.
"The only claim that is asserted that was made in Florida in the 2009 action that covered Prince Andrew was the third count, which was to transport somebody for the purpose of illegal sexual activity," he argued.
"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.
"He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked."
Mr Boies said the duke would not be subject to the court's jurisdiction in the 2009 agreement, and would not be classed as a potential defendant – meaning he would not be covered by the settlement.
He told the judge the complaint "makes clear with respect to the sexual intercourse and the sexual touching".
And Judge Kaplan, having revealed on Wednesday that the case could proceed, said: "Ms (Virginia) Giuffre's complaint is neither 'unintelligible' nor 'vague' nor 'ambiguous'.
"It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.
"Defendant nevertheless holds out that he cannot reasonably prepare a response because plaintiff has not described 'what purported sexual contact occurred... when and where the incident occurred, or the forcible compulsion she was under due to express or implied threat' to the degree of specificity he would like.
"While he understandably seeks more detail about the precise details of plaintiff's claims, he will be able to obtain that detail during pretrial discovery.
"Moreover, defendant's assertion that he cannot reasonably prepare a response to plaintiff's allegations plainly contradicts the content of his moving papers, in which he denies Ms Giuffre's allegations in no uncertain terms."
Andrew could yet push for an out-of-court settlement with Ms Giuffre. Reports say she does not want to go down that route, and instead wishes to send a message showing powerful people facing justice.
It follows the fallout from Ghislaine Maxwell's trial, saw two jurors claim they were sexually abused after the case.
The revelations threw into question the jury selection process for the case, which saw her convicted of sex trafficking.
Maxwell and Andrew were friends and she introduced the royal to Epstein.
Her lawyers are thought to be readying to push for a mistrial.