A civil lawsuit accusing Britain’s Prince Andrew of sexually abusing one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers will be allowed to proceed, a New York judge has ruled, threatening further embarrassment and legal consequences for the Duke of York.
Prince Andrew’s lawyers had argued that their client was covered by a confidential 2009 settlement between Epstein and Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked to Prince Andrew for sex on three occasions when she was under 18. He has denied this.
Under the terms of that settlement, which has since been made public, Roberts received $500,000 in exchange for dropping all claims against Epstein as well as “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant.”
But in an opinion released on Wednesday, Judge Lewis Kaplan found that the language in the settlement was too vague to exempt Prince Andrew and rejected his motion to dismiss the case.
The ruling is another indication of the devastation that Epstein is still capable of inflicting on friends and former associates two-and-a-half years after he was found hanged in a New York jail cell in 2019 after being charged with trafficking underage girls for sexual abuse.
Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former confidante and also a friend of Prince Andrew, was convicted by a New York jury last month on five criminal charges for her role in recruiting girls that the late sex offender abused.
That conviction has now been called into question after a juror subsequently revealed that he had been a victim of sexual abuse. Maxwell’s lawyers have asked the judge for a new trial. Prosecutors, in turn, have offered to drop two separate perjury charges if the conviction stands. The former British socialite, 60, is facing up to 65 years in prison.
Prince Andrew’s royal career has already been wrecked by his friendship with Epstein. In 2019, he announced that he was stepping back from his duties after a disastrous BBC interview in which he struggled to account for his relationship with the former sex offender.
Giuffre was among the first of Epstein’s victims to go public with her story. She appeared in a photo with Prince Andrew’s arm wrapped around her waist while Maxwell looms in the background. She did not testify in Maxwell’s trial but was referred to repeatedly during the proceedings.
Giuffre met Maxwell as a 16-year-old working as a spa attendant at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. She has claimed Epstein and Maxwell then sexually abused her and pressured her to have sex with other men.
She sued Prince Andrew last August, saying she was “holding [him] accountable for what he did to me.” In public interviews, the prince has denied any recollection of having met her.
Additional reporting by Stefania Palma in Washington