Prince Andrew is today under severe pressure to settle with Virginia Roberts Giuffre after a New York judge sensationally refused to throw out her case – paving the way for a box office trial in nine months to examine claims she was repeatedly forced to have sex with him when she was a teenager.
The decision is a devastating blow to the Duke of York, who now faces a hugely expensive and reputation-shredding court case next September unless he tries to pay-off Ms Giuffre with at least $5million.
If he chooses not to settle, or if Ms Giuffre rejects any offers, Andrew faces being interviewed by her lawyers in a videotaped deposition in London that could be played in court, although the ninth in line to the throne cannot be forced to give evidence due to it being a civil suit in a different legal jurisdiction.
Additionally, he could simply ignore the case and let the court give a decision in his absence, although this would be likely to damage his reputation further.
Andrew has been forced to sell off the £17million Swiss ski chalet he owns with his ex-wife Sarah, the Duchess of York, to cover his legal bills or a settlement after his mother the Queen reportedly refused to pay. He was only able to sell the property after settling a £6.6m debt with the owner.
Judge Lewis Kaplan has slated the case to be held between September and December, with Andrew having the option to appear via videolink. However, this timeline is likely to slip, particularly if Andrew decides to appeal today’s judgement.
This morning in New York, he dismissed an application from the Duke of York’s lawyers to have the case shut down – freeing Ms Giuffre to pursue her high-profile case in September over her sensational allegations against the British royal.
Andrew’s attorneys had unsuccessfully argued that her case should have been thrown out because of a newly-unsealed $500,000 settlement with Jeffrey Epstein. The royal’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, argued it protected Andrew because it contained a clause where she agreed not to take legal action against ‘potential defendants’.
In the conclusion of his written ruling, Judge Kaplan said: ‘For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.
‘Given the court’s limited task of ruling on this motion, nothing in this opinion or previously in these proceedings properly may be construed as indicating a view with respect to the truth of the charges or countercharges or as to the intention of the parties in entering into the 2009 Agreement.’
Outlining his reasons for denying the motion, Judge Kaplan said the court was not able at this stage to consider the duke’s efforts to cast doubt on Ms Giuffre’s claims or whether he was covered by the settlement agreement, suggesting these were issues for a trial.
In his ruling, he said: ‘The 2009 Agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially,’ to benefit Prince Andrew.’
And it went on: ‘The law prohibits the Court from considering at this stage of the proceedings the defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial. In a similar vein and for similar reasons, it is not open to the Court now to decide, as a matter of fact, just what the parties to the release in the 2009 settlement agreement signed by Ms Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein actually meant.’
Her Majesty is entering a period of celebration in the UK as her Platinum Jubilee marking her 70 years on the throne approaches – but the monarch now faces the prospect of her second son’s accuser giving a detailed account of her sexual abuse allegations in open court this Autumn.
Prince Charles, Meghan Markle and Sarah, Duchess of York could all be called as witnesses, David Boies, the lawyer representing Ms Giuffre in her legal action has claimed. Andrew’s daughter Beatrice could also be called, because her father used her as an alibi claiming he was with her in a Woking Pizza Express on the night he is alleged to have slept with Virginia in Ghislaine Maxwell’s London mews house. However, royals based in the UK cannot be forced to give evidence due to it being a civil case in a different jurisdiction.
Andrew’s medical records will also be requested, to ascertain if he is telling the truth about claims he cannot sweat due to a rush of adrenaline while on a Royal Navy ship under attack in the 1982 Falklands War fought between Britain and Argentina.
Buckingham Palace has refused to comment again today, describing it as an ‘ongoing legal matter’, but royal experts told MailOnline that Her Majesty now has a ‘horrid shadow’ over her Jubilee year.
If the trial goes ahead Andrew would likely be subpoenaed to appear in person – but he could refuse to attend. His deposition would be used in lieu of live testimony – but that would likely play out badly with any jury. He will not be able to rely on diplomatic immunity to avoid the case – because it only applies to the Queen and her immediate household.
But legal experts say he cannot be forced to attend any US court, because UK citizens cannot be extradited to America for civil cases. Lawyers will be able to go ahead with the case in his absence. And they say he could still be forced to pay damages if he loses the case.
Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented victims of sexual abuse for decades, said: ‘I think it would be a serious mistake for Prince Andrew not to testify – he’s a party and if he doesn’t testify it’s an elephant in a room. If he choses just not to testify, then a jury’s going to be wondering why he hasn’t.’
Friends of Ms Giuffre, who alleges she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York three times aged 17 on the orders of his friend Jeffrey Epstein, insist she will not agree to an out of court settlement, claiming she wants to ‘send a message’ that anyone ‘with power and privilege’ accused of abusing young girls will face the full force of the law.
And Ms Giuffre has instructed her lawyers that agreeing a settlement of at least $5million with Prince Andrew – who denies the allegations being made against him – would not ‘advance that message’. But nevertheless, 99 per cent of civil cases in the US are settled out of court.
As Andrew suffered humiliation in New York, it also emerged today:
- The Duke of York cannot return to royal duties because his reputation is ‘damaged beyond repair’ following a the decision to allow a civil case to be brought against him by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, experts told MailOnline;
- His mother the Queen now has a ‘horrid shadow’ over her Platinum Jubilee year unless her son settles to avoid a trial, royal experts have claimed;
- Leading commentator Phil Dampier said he believes that the Queen’s second son will try to stop the case with an out-of-court settlement;
- The author added he believes Andrew is ‘finished’ and will likely be stripped of his military patronages;
- Lisa Bloom, who represents a number of Maxwell and Epstein’s accusers, described the judge’s ruling as ‘a detailed, well reasoned decision’.