Prince Andrew rejects abuse accuser's lawsuit

Virginia Giuffre claims she was assaulted by the prince in London and New York

Britain's Prince Andrew. AP

A US lawyer for Britain's Prince Andrew on Monday 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 be brought.

At a hearing in the US District Court in Manhattan, the prince's lawyer Andrew Brettler also claimed that in 2009 the plaintiff, Virginia Giuffre, signed away her right to sue by resolving a separate lawsuit.

Prince Andrew is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip died on April 9, 2021, just before his 100th birthday.

Ms Giuffre, 38, has said the abuse occurred about two decades ago when she was introduced to the prince by the financier Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Andrew has denied Ms Giuffre's accusations.

"This is a baseless, nonviable, potentially unlawful lawsuit," Mr Brettler, who is based in Los Angeles, said at 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."

Mr Brettler said Prince Andrew, 61, had not been properly served the lawsuit under UK law and the Hague Convention.

He said that included a process server leaving a copy on August 27 with a police officer guarding Royal Lodge, the prince's home in Windsor, England.

Ms Giuffre's lawyer rejected that claim.

"We have properly served him," David Boies told US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.

Mr Kaplan directed Mr Boies to propose alternative means to serve Andrew, rejecting Mr Bretter's argument that Hague Convention procedures had to be "exhausted" before applying US procedures.

The next hearing was scheduled for October 13.

Andrew, the Duke of York, was a friend of Epstein's for at least 20 years and was introduced to the registered sex offender by socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.

Epstein, on one occasion, lent $24,000 to the prince's former wife, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 after federal prosecutors charged him with the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.

The prince stepped down from royal duties in 2019, saying his association with Epstein was a "disruption" to his family's work.

Ms Giuffre's lawsuit puts Prince 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.

The August 9 complaint deals with events at Ms Maxwell's London home, Epstein's mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and his private island in the US Virgin Islands.

In 2020, Maxwell was charged by the US federal government with the crimes of enticement of minors and sex trafficking of underage girls.

In a September 6 letter, a London-based lawyer for the prince suggested that Ms 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".

The lawyer, Gary Bloxsome of Blackfords, said Prince 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.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

She faces a November 29 trial before US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York.

Updated: September 13, 2021, 11:01 PM