Prince Andrew’s hopes of escaping the scandal stemming from his friendship with convicted sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein have been dealt another major blow by a US judge.
The disgraced royal’s legal team had sought to block a lawsuit brought by an Australian woman who says he sexually assaulted her when she was 17.
But federal Judge Lewis A Kaplan dismissed out of hand the prince’s argument that the suit should not proceed because the woman no longer lives in the US.
In further bad news for Andrew, Kaplan issued a written order demanding the prince’s lawyers turn over documents in accordance with the schedule laid out in the lawsuit brought in August by Virginia Giuffre.
Ms Giuffre says she was abused by the prince on multiple occasions in 2001 while she was being sexually assaulted by financier Jeffrey Epstein.The Duke of York has denied all the allegations.
The prince’s attorney, Andrew Brettler, has called the lawsuit “baseless”.
The order was filed three days before the scheduled public release of a 2009 settlement agreement between Epstein and Ms Giuffre.
Lawyers for Andrew say that the agreement protects the prince from claims like those brought by Ms Giuffre and will be sufficient grounds for the lawsuit’s dismissal.
The prince’s lawyers had claimed the evidence was so strong that Ms Giuffre does not reside in the United States that it was pointless to exchange evidence until that question is resolved because it could result in the lawsuit’s dismissal.
They argued that Ms Giuffre has lived in Australia all but two of the past 19 years, has an Australian driver’s licence and resides in Perth, where she has been raising three children with her husband, who is also Australian.
‘Duck and dodge’
In a statement, Giuffre attorney Sigrid McCawley called the request to halt the case “just another in a series of tired attempts by Prince Andrew to duck and dodge the legal merits of the case Virginia Giuffre has brought against him. All parties in litigation are subject to discovery and Prince Andrew is no exception”.
Judge Kaplan, in a one-page order, noted the prince’s lawyers have requested that “extensive” materials be turned over by Ms Giuffre by January 14, including documents related to where she has lived.
And he said the prince’s attorneys have not yet formally raised the defence that the lawsuit cannot proceed on the grounds that Ms Giuffre has been living in Australia rather than Colorado, where her lawyers say she is a resident.
His order expressed no opinion on the merits of the prince’s claims that Ms Giuffre should be disqualified from suing because she lives in Australia.
Heading back to court
Oral arguments via a video teleconference on the prince’s request to dismiss the case are scheduled for Monday morning.
In October, the prince’s lawyers attacked the lawsuit on multiple grounds, saying Ms Giuffre had made false claims against Andrew because he “never sexually abused or assaulted” her.
“Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him. Epstein’s abuse of Giuffre does not justify her public campaign against Prince Andrew,” the written arguments said.
Epstein was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges.
Charges against two guards, who should have been on ‘suicide watch’ and falsified documents after Epstein’s body was found, were dropped by federal prosecutors.
His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, was convicted on Wednesday of charges including sex trafficking and conspiracy after a month-long trial.
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