Judge Denies Prince Andrew’s Motion to Dismiss Sexual Assault Lawsuit

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A federal judge in New York has said Virginia Giuffre’s civil case claiming Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her can continue, denying a motion for dismissal Andrew’s defense team argued Jan. 4 in court. Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York’s Southern District said Wednesday in his opinion that the language in a 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein was ambiguous about whether it released Andrew from legal action by Giuffre, and the case against Andrew could continue.

The settlement agreement said that Epstein and his lawyers, employees, and other close associates could not be sued by Giuffre, and neither could “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant.” The judge zeroed in on that language, deciding it could be interpreted in at least two different ways and noting that if the contract had been written more clearly, this debate could be resolved, but as it was written the phrase is “far from self evident.”

The judge also stated that Giuffre’s claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress were legally sound based on her descriptions of forced sexual contact in the complaint against Andrew. He also ruled that the defense’s argument against the constitutionality of the Covid-driven deadline extension on the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue in New York was without merit. “With or without a global pandemic, New York’s modest two-year revival window was a reasonable measure for remedying injustice to victims without treading upon the State Constitution’s due process clause,” Kaplan said.

Andrew’s defense had also argued that Giuffre should be required to make more specific allegations before the case moves ahead. Kaplan denied this request, as well, noting that the law only entitles someone to more clarity when a claim is so vague or ambiguous that the defendant can’t prepare a response. “Ms. Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous,’” he said, quoting the relevant case law. “It alleges discrete incidence of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.” Andrew’s team will get more detail in discovery, he added, and denied all aspects of the defense’s motion for dismissal.

Giuffre’s 2021 lawsuit claims Epstein trafficked Giuffre to his longtime friend Andrew for sex when she was 17, and that she received “express or implied threats” from Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Andrew to perform sexual acts with the royal. 

Released to the public early this year, the 2009 settlement documented that Epstein had paid Giuffre $500,000 to dismiss her claim that he had sexually abused her when she was a teenager and had forced her to have sex with his powerful friends. It included no admission of guilt on Epstein’s part and bound Giuffre to confidentiality about the payment. It also released Epstein and some of his associates from further legal action by Giuffre.

Since the sex-trafficking conviction of Epstein’s former girlfriend and employee Ghislaine Maxwell — and since Epstein died by suicide in federal custody in 2019 — Giuffre’s case against Andrew has risen to public prominence as a next step toward justice for victims of the sex-trafficking ring led by Epstein. After it was revealed a juror may have withheld information about a history of sexual abuse during jury selection, Maxwell’s defense team has requested a new trial. Their motion is due on Jan. 19.

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