Prince Andrew is facing the prospect of a trial in a very public civil lawsuit for sexual abuse later this year, after losing his attempt to have Virginia Giuffre’s case against him thrown out.
It is an unprecedented situation for a senior British royal – the third child (and reportedly the favorite son) of Queen Elizabeth II – and sets up a dramatic series of legal proceedings that will attract attention around the world and could have major ramifications for Buckingham Palace.
Giuffre alleges that she was trafficked by convicted sex offender and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and forced to perform sex acts with the royal – claims that Andrew denies.
Giuffre brought her case under the Child Victims Act, a state law enacted in New York in 2019 which expanded the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases to give survivors more opportunities to seek justice. An attorney for Giuffre told CNN in August that filing the civil case was to show “all perpetrators of abuse should be held accountable.”
She is seeking damages “in an amount to be determined at trial,” as well as attorneys’ fees and other further relief “as the Court may deem just and proper,” according to the lawsuit.
His attorneys previously filed a motion to dismiss but that effort failed in early January.
The prince’s reputation has already been severely tarnished by his relationship with Epstein – and his friendship with Epstein’s former partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted in December for her role in facilitating Epstein’s abuse.
Here’s what you need to know about the case, and what comes next.
What are Giuffre’s claims?
Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein, says she was forced to perform sex acts with Andrew. She says she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with his friends – including the prince – at a time when she was underage (17) in the US.
Giuffre says the assaults happened in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands, that Andrew was aware she was a minor at the time, and that she had been trafficked by Epstein.
In claims made prior to filing her lawsuit, Giuffre alleged that in 2001 Epstein brought her to London, where she was introduced to Prince Andrew and went dancing at a nightclub with Epstein, his then-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and the prince.
In a BBC interview broadcast in 2019, Giuffre said she had been taken to the Tramp nightclub where, Giuffre alleged, Andrew asked her to dance and was “sweating all over me.”
Andrew, 61, has consistently denied the claims, telling the BBC in 2019: “It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
He claimed in the same interview that he could not sweat, due to a rare medical condition, and that on the night he is alleged to have had sex with Giuffre, he was in fact taking his daughter to a party at a Pizza Express restaurant in Woking, southwest of London.
Giuffre’s lawyers asked Andrew in court filings to provide documents proving both of those claims. But Andrew’s team responded that he was unable to do so, because he has no documents proving a medical condition that prevents sweating, and could not identity anyone he encountered at the pizza restaurant.
Where do things stand in the court case?
When the lawsuit was filed in August, Giuffre’s lawyers said the damage from the alleged incidents was “severe and lasting.”
Andrew’s legal team asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, saying it violated the terms of a confidential settlement agreement Giuffre made with Epstein in 2009.
That settlement was unsealed on January 3; it shows that Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000 to drop the case without any admission of liability or fault, and that Giuffre agreed to “remise, release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharge” parties and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant.” It does not explicitly name Andrew or any others.
Andrew lost that effort on Wednesday; Kaplan ruled that “the 2009 agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially,’ to benefit Prince Andrew.”
It was not the first attempt by Andrew’s legal team to have the lawsuit dismissed; in September his lawyers claimed the papers had not been properly served and that the case should be thrown out as a result.
For many legal experts, the writing was on the wall well before both sides presented their arguments to Judge Kaplan. Georges Lederman, special counsel in the white-collar defense and investigations team at the international law firm Withers, told CNN in mid-January motions to dismiss are “rarely successful.”
He explained: “All that a plaintiff need demonstrate to defeat the motion is that she has satisfied all of the elements necessary to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. That is a low threshold, and, as Judge Kaplan wrote in his ruling, Giuffre in her complaint has indeed satisfied all of the elements necessary to state a claim for sexual abuse.”
What are Andrew’s legal options?
The beleaguered royal is now locked into a protracted and embarrassing legal battle that will undoubtedly cast a dark shadow over his mother’s platinum jubilee year when she’ll be celebrating her 70 years on the throne.
The case could now move towards the discovery stage, where both sides could demand disclosure of documents and reports that are needed to establish their claims or defenses, Melissa Murray, professor of law at New York University, told CNN earlier this month.
Murray explained that during discovery “the parties may also be asked to sit for depositions or to provide written answers to interrogatories.”
“Much of the evidence produced during the discovery phase risks becoming part of a public record as the case proceeds to trial,” she added.
Now Andrew has until July 14 to potentially answer questions about the case under oath, following a ruling made by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan last year. The scheduling order signed by the judge in New York means that if lawyers for Giuffre want to question Andrew, they must do so outside of court and submit the interview by that date.
Wednesday’s filing appears to suggest Andrew’s intention to fight the case out in court. CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said previously that this could be a risky strategy.
“If he proceeds to trial, now the dirty laundry is aired,” Jackson said on January 12.
The other option is of course to settle, which is how most civil cases are resolved, according to experts.
While it appears the duke hopes to clear his name and, in turn, restore his tarnished reputation, several legal analysts CNN has spoken to suggest an out-of-court settlement is the better option.
What is Andrew’s legal defense?
Andrew has denied the allegations against him, telling the BBC in 2019: It didn’t happen.”
“Prince Andrew denies that he was a co-conspirator of Epstein or that Epstein trafficked girls to him,” his attorneys Andrew B. Brettler and Melissa Y. Lerner wrote.
He also denied he was a “close friend” of Maxwell and denied that he became a “frequent guest” in Epstein’s homes around the world. On other points, the attorneys write that the prince “lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations.”
But he did admit in the court filing that he met Epstein in 1999; that Epstein and Maxwell attended the prince’s 40th birthday party in 2000; and that Andrew was photographed with Epstein in Central Park and stayed at Epstein’s New York City mansion in 2010.
Andrew’s attorneys have also attempted to shift the narrative, alleging in a blistering court filing in October that Giuffre’s claims are motivated by money. CNN contacted Giuffre’s lawyers in relation to the fresh claims; in their initial filings for the case, her attorneys said Andrew had inflicted “emotional distress” on Giuffre that was “severe and lasting.”
His legal team previously wrote in a blistering court filing in October that Giuffre’s claims are motivated by money. CNN contacted Giuffre’s lawyers in relation to the claims; in their initial filings for the case, her attorneys said Andrew had inflicted “emotional distress” on Giuffre that was “severe and lasting.”
“Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense,” Andrew’s lawyers wrote in the documents filed on October 29 – the clearest sign yet that they are planning to go on the offensive as they battle to save the reputation of the Queen’s third child.
The documents acknowledge that Giuffre “may well be a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein … and nothing can excuse, nor fully capture, the abhorrence and gravity of Epstein’s monstrous behavior against Giuffre, if so.”
But the papers also seek to paint Giuffre as money-driven and accuse her of “willful recruitment and trafficking of young girls for sexual abuse.”
They allege that 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,” a dramatic escalation in the case that hinted at an unsavory round of legal battles ahead.
Giuffre’s attorney David Boies said in a statement Wednesday they looked forward to a trial.
“Prince Andrew’s answer continues his approach of denying any knowledge or information concerning the claims against him, and purporting to blame the victim of the abuse for somehow bringing it on herself,” he said. “We look forward to confronting Prince Andrew with his denials and attempts to blame Ms. Giuffre for her own abuse at his deposition and at trial.”
In her lawyers’ initial filing, Giuffre said she feared disobeying Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew “due to their powerful connections, wealth and authority.”
Will Andrew have to face questions himself?
Andrew has previously been accused of not cooperating with attempts to interview him as part of the investigation into the alleged sex trafficking ring Epstein and Maxwell are alleged to have operated.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
As 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.
If the case goes to trial stage, legal experts suggest the ongoing pandemic will likely prevent him from appearing in person. “Courts are authorized to take testimony by remote means, but doing so in this case will depend much more on the status of the pandemic than any other factor,” said Lederman.
What does this mean for the royals?
The long-running allegations facing Andrew have dramatically tarnished his public standing. In their motion to dismiss the case, his lawyers acknowledge his “sullied reputation.”
The scandal has wider implications for the royal family, which was simultaneously been forced to weather criticism over Andrew’s case and claim of racism from Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex over the past year.
British tabloids often refer to the duke as the Queen’s favorite child, so his lengthy association with Epstein and Giuffre’s allegations against him signal a hefty fall from grace.
The royal family have made moves to distance themselves from the Duke of York as he’s continued to fight the allegations. He has been stripped of his royal titles and is now the only one of his siblings no longer referred to as His (or Her) Royal Highness, Buckingham Palace announced in a remarkable statement two weeks ago.
Announcing the Queen’s decision, the palace statement made clear that Andrew will no longer have any royal public duties and will be defending himself as a private citizen in the allegations made by Giuffre.
A royal source told CNN that all Andrew’s titles – his military affiliations and other royal patronages – were returned to the Queen effective immediately and will be redistributed to other members of the family.
Andrew retains his own Duke of York title and he is still a member of the royal family, but, like the Sussexes, he will no longer represent the Queen in an official capacity.
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CNN’s Sonia Moghe and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.