A United States-based lawyer for Britain’s Prince Andrew forcefully rejected claims in a civil lawsuit by a woman who accused the prince of sexually assaulting her when she was 17, and challenged whether the case could even be brought.
At a hearing in the US District Court in Manhattan on Monday, the prince’s lawyer Andrew Brettler also said the plaintiff Virginia Giuffre appeared to have signed away her right to sue Queen Elizabeth’s second son in 2009 when resolving a separate lawsuit.
Giuffre, 38, has said Andrew’s alleged abuse occurred about 20 years ago, when the financier Jeffrey Epstein was sexually abusing her. Andrew, the Duke of York, has denied Giuffre’s accusations.
“This is a baseless, nonviable, potentially unlawful lawsuit,” Brettler, based in Los Angeles, said during a court conference conducted by phone.
“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,” Brettler added.
Brettler also said Giuffre had not properly served Andrew under UK law and the Hague Convention, including when a process server left a copy on August 27 with a police officer guarding Royal Lodge, the prince’s home in Windsor, England.
Giuffre’s lawyer rejected that claim. “We have properly served him,” David Boies told US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.
Kaplan directed Boies to propose alternative means to serve Andrew, and rejected Bretter’s argument that Hague Convention procedures had to be “exhausted” before applying US procedures. The next conference was scheduled for October 13.
Andrew, 61, is a former friend of Epstein, a registered sex offender who killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 after US prosecutors charged him with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women.
The prince stepped down from royal duties and saw charities and other organisations distance themselves from him after he gave a November 2019 BBC interview, now widely seen as disastrous, concerning his relationship with Epstein.
Giuffre’s lawsuit puts Andrew in a tough position because he could be held in default and owe damages if he ignores it or face years of legal battles by defending himself in court.
According to the August 9 complaint, Andrew forced Giuffre to have unwanted sexual intercourse at the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and Epstein’s longtime associate.
The complaint also said Andrew abused Giuffre at Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and on a private island Epstein owned in the US Virgin Islands.
In a September 6 letter, a London-based lawyer for Andrew suggested that Giuffre’s lawsuit might be dismissed because she signed a release in 2009 in a separate Florida case covering “claims against persons associated with Jeffrey Epstein”.
Gary Bloxsome, of UK law firm Blackfords, said Andrew’s lawyers needed to review the release and determine its scope.
“Until we have made that determination, it is difficult for us to give advice as to whether the Duke should voluntarily accept service,” he wrote.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges she aided Epstein’s sexual abuses. She faces a scheduled November 29 trial before US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan.