Prince Andrew faces trial after judge refuses to dismiss Giuffre case

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Prince Andrew faces trial after judge refuses to dismiss Giuffre case” was written by Caroline Davies and Victoria Bekiempis, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th January 2022 19.31 UTC

Prince Andrew faces the prospect of giving evidence in a high-profile trial after a New York judge refused to throw out a civil case over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was 17 years old.

Legal experts said the Duke of York has “no good options left” after he failed to have Giuffre’s case against him dismissed, with Manhattan federal court judge Lewis Kaplan rejecting his motion “in all respects”.

The ruling could see Andrew, who strenuously denies the allegations, divulging aspects of his personal life in open court this autumn.

One option of avoiding such a sensational trial would be for the duke to reach an out-of-court settlement with Giuffre, possibly costing him millions, though there are suggestions she would want her day in court.

Such an agreement could cause monumental reputational damage for the monarchy, however, with the duke already forced to step back from public life.

The news is a very unwelcome development for the royal family, coming just three days after full details of the celebrations for the Queen’s platinum jubilee in June were revealed. Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying: “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”

In his 46-page detailed ruling, Kaplan rejected the argument put by Andrew’s legal team that Giuffre had waived her right to sue him under a previously secret $500,000 (£360,000) settlement she made with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Giuffre alleges Epstein trafficked her to have sex with several people, including Andrew.

In the conclusion of his written ruling, Kaplan said: “For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.

“Given the court’s limited task of ruling on this motion, nothing in this opinion or previously in these proceedings properly may be construed as indicating a view with respect to the truth of the charges or counter-charges or as to the intention of the parties in entering into the 2009 agreement.”

Outlining his reasons for denying the motion, Kaplan said the court was not able at this stage to consider the duke’s efforts to cast doubt on Giuffre’s claims or whether he was covered by the settlement agreement, suggesting these were issues for a trial.

He said: “The 2009 agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly’, ‘primarily’, or ‘substantially’, to benefit Prince Andrew.”

Andrew’s options now are stark and unattractive, according to legal observers.

Nick Goldstone, head of disputes resolution at Ince, said: “The ruling dismissing Prince Andrew’s strike-out applications is very thorough and comprehensive. The applications appear to have done the prince more harm than good.”

The duke can seek a settlement out of court, though a settlement with no admission of liability could be costly, and Giuffre may not wish to settle. He can also contest the case, but that means giving a deposition under oath – possibly giving oral evidence – during which he will be quizzed on highly personal matters.

He can also default, effectively ignoring the court case, but that would lead to a finding against him.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens, of Howard Kennedy, told the BBC: “Andrew’s got no good options now. He can’t make things better so, essentially, I think he’s either going to have to engage in the trial process or he’s going to have to settle, and that may well be his least worst option.”

If he decides to contest, legal observers said the duke would be advised to testify, though he cannot be compelled to do so. If he were to decline, “from a presentational perspective, that would not look good”, said Goldstone.

Andrew could file for a motion of reconsideration on Kaplan’s ruling, or he could take an appeal straight to the second circuit court of appeals. Any appeal would delay proceedings.

The duke is in the process of selling his £18m Swiss ski chalet amid speculation he requires the money for legal fees.

If the case proceeds to full trial, it could see him forced to call witnesses, which could include members of the royal family, in particular his daughter Princess Beatrice. He maintained in his disastrous 2019 BBC Newsnight interview that, on the evening cited by Giuffre, he went with Beatrice to a late-afternoon children’s party at a Pizza Express in Woking. After the party, he claims, he was at home with his children all night.

The ruling deals yet another blow to the embattled prince, whose reputation and standing within the royal family has already been tarnished by his friendships with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

He withdrew from public duties soon after the Newsnight interview, which failed to draw a line under his relationship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender who counted former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump in his circle. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail after his July 2019 arrest on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell, 60, the daughter of the late British press titan Robert Maxwell, was found guilty of five counts for luring girls as young as 14 into Epstein’s world for him to sexually abuse.

Giuffre has claimed that the prince was “sweating profusely all over me” at a London nightclub on a night when they allegedly had a sexual encounter.

Andrew said in his BBC interview that Giuffre’s statement about his perspiration could not be true, claiming: “I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time.”

As part of Giuffre’s suit, her legal team has requested documents that would prove whether or not Andrew can sweat.

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