A lawyer for Prince Andrew, who was sued last month by a woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her as a minor, said in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday that the trial was likely to be be disabled under a confidential settlement that the woman had reached Jeffrey Epstein over ten years ago.
The hearing, which comes as part of the closely watched trial brought by Virginia Giuffre, one of Mr Epstein’s most prominent accusers, was the first public response from Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and suggests that his legal team will seek to reject any attempt. to allow the trial to continue. Prince Andrew’s lawyer also argued on Monday that his client had not received the legal papers properly in England.
Lawyer Andrew B. Brettler said Ms Giuffre’s trial was “baseless, unsustainable and potentially illegal”.
“We are very concerned about the merits of this lawsuit,” Brettler said at a hearing in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Ms Giuffre, 38, claimed in her lawsuit that Prince Andrew, 61, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, sexually assaulted her when she was under 18 at Mr Epstein’s mansion in New York and on Mr. Epstein’s private island, Little St. James, in the US Virgin Islands.
She also said in the lawsuit that Prince Andrew, along with Mr Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew at Ms Maxwell’s home in London.
Prince Andrew, who has denied Ms Giuffre’s allegations, has not been charged with any felony, but has long been hanging over federal prosecutors’ Manhattan investigation of Mr Epstein and Ms Maxwell.
Mr Epstein, 66, was arrested in July 2019 for sex trafficking and a month later was found hanging dead in his cell at a Manhattan jail; the death was deemed a suicide. An indictment accused Mr Epstein of recruiting dozens of underage girls to perform sex acts with him at his Manhattan mansion and estate in Palm Beach, after which he paid them hundreds of dollars in cash.
Ms Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020, is due to stand trial in November for helping Mr Epstein recruit, prepare and ultimately sexually assault underage girls. In one case, an indictment, she was involved in sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl, forcing her to engage in sex acts with Mr. Epstein and later paying her. Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Ms Giuffre has said in previous court records that Mr Epstein repeatedly offered her to Prince Andrew for sex as a teenager.
Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew includes a photo of him with his arm around his waist, with Ms Maxwell smiling in the background. Ms Giuffre’s trial said the photo was taken at Ms Maxwell’s home before Prince Andrew sexually abused her.
Other lawyers for Prince Andrew said last week in a letter to Ms Giuffre’s lawyers that the prince would challenge the lawsuit on the grounds that Ms Giuffre’s lawyers had not properly served him with the complaint, a routine step giving one defendant a formal notice that he has been sued.
“We are not invited to appear in the claim brought by Ms Giuffre in the Southern District of New York and we are not charged with accepting service of this claim on behalf of the Duke,” the lawyers for the Blackfords firm wrote.
Lawyers also wrote that Ms Giuffre’s claim against Prince Andrew could be invalid under a 2009 settlement in a lawsuit against Mr Epstein in Florida.
Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, attached a copy of the letter from the prince’s lawyers to a court file on Friday. In it, Mr Boies said lawyers’ suggestion that the earlier settlement “somehow frees Prince Andrew from the claims” made by Ms Giuffre was “wrong,” noting that Prince Andrew had not been a party to the previous case.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said in court on Monday that he would hear arguments on whether the suit was properly served. But he seemed to question the usefulness of the effort.
“I can see a lot of legal fees being spent and time being spent and delayed, which in the end may not be very productive for anyone,” the judge said.
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.