Prince Andrew fails to have sex assault case thrown out of court
Prince Andrew will be tried over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was underage after a US judge ruled her civil lawsuit can proceed.
Judge Lewis A Kaplan's decision is a huge blow for the prince, whose lawyer argued earlier this month the case should be thrown out as Ms Giuffre had waived her right to pursue the Duke of York by signing a confidential settlement with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
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 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."
This year is a period of celebration for the royal family as it marks Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, but the monarch and senior royals face the prospect of the duke's accuser giving a detailed account of her allegations in open court this autumn.
The institution of the monarchy is likely to be damaged by Ms Giuffre's civil sex case, which will be heard in New York and is expected to make headlines across the globe.
Andrew's reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and he withdrew from public duties soon after his disastrous 2019 Newsnight interview that failed to draw a line under his relationship with the disgraced financier.
Ms Giuffre is suing the queen's son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.
She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.
The prince has vehemently denied the allegations and his legal team has argued from the lawsuit's first hearing that the case is "baseless".
There has already been speculation the duke may be encouraged to reach an agreement with his accuser in a bid to avoid the trial being held.
If the hearing does go ahead it is not clear whether Andrew will give evidence in person, via a video link or decline to participate.
The settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, made public earlier this month, detailed how Andrew's accuser had received a $500,000 (£370,000) payout in 2009 and agreed to "release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge" the disgraced financier and "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant".
Andrew B Brettler, the prince's lawyer, had argued during a virtual hearing his client was a "potential defendant" as defined by the agreement and so the case "should be dismissed".
The lawyer said a potential defendant would be someone Ms Giuffre knew she had "claims against at the time that she filed the lawsuit" in 2009 against Epstein, whose former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on December 29 of procuring teenage girls for him.
In his counter-argument David Boies, Ms Giuffre's lawyer, said only the parties of the settlement agreement - Epstein and Ms Giuffre and their associates - could benefit from it, and not a "third party" such as Andrew.
He added the duke would not be a "potential defendant" as referred to in the settlement, as the 2009 lawsuit made no allegation the duke had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.
The lawyer told the hearing, held to hear arguments about dismissing the case: "He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked - that's a different criteria."