The Duke of York is heading to a New York courthouse.
US District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled today that Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew may proceed as a matter of law. Ms. Giuffre’s victory means the judge finds her claims legally cognizable. As the case moves into civil discovery, Ms. Giuffre must prove all the relevant facts she alleges to be true. Prince Andrew has denied all Ms. Giuffre’s claims.
In a 2021 lawsuit filed in New York’s federal courts, Giuffre sued Andrew for committing battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. As Judge Kaplan noted, Giuffre’s civil case originates from the same district where a jury last month convicted Prince Andrew’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell of human trafficking. In his forty-six page ruling, Kaplan made three key findings rejecting Andrew’s motion to dismiss Giuffre’s lawsuit.
First, the judge rejected the heart of Andrew’s defense. Andrew claimed he was immune from suit because of a now public 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein. That settlement in turn grew out of Giuffre’s 2009 lawsuit against Epstein in the wake of the non-prosecution agreement he extracted from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida regarding criminal sexual abuse charges. Epstein paid $500,000 to avoid civil litigation with Giuffre, who asserted she was a victim of Epstein’s unlawful sexual conduct.
Andrew, who was neither specifically named nor a party to the 2009 settlement, claimed he was in fact anticipated under the settlement’s cryptic reference barring Ms. Giuffre from suing other unnamed predators. Specifically, the agreement stated that Giuffre released Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant (‘Other Potential Defendants’) from all, and all manner of (claims) that [Giuffre] ever had… or may have, against Jeffrey Epstein, or Other Potential Defendants.”
Andrew claimed refuge as one of the “Other Potential Defendants.” While criticizing the 2009 settlement as poorly drafted, the judge found no evidence proving Andrew was entitled to rely upon it as a direct or third party beneficiary. Therefore, the ambiguity should ultimately be resolved in the future by a jury hearing all relevant facts, wrote Judge Kaplan.
Second, the judge rebuffed Andrew’s attempts to throw out the New York’s Child Victims Act as unconstitutional. The Act extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors, which Andrew asserted was a violation of his due process rights. Relying on established state and federal law, Judge Kaplan noted that Andrew’s argument “has been rejected by every New York state and federal court to have encountered it.” Andrew’s argument attacking the legislation was “without merit.”
Third, the judge rejected Andrew’s demands for a more definite statement from Ms. Giuffre as to the nature of his alleged violations. In response to Andrew’s complaint that Giuffre’s allegations were unclear, the judge held that the prince “will get the detail he seeks during discovery.” Kaplan also noted that “Ms. Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous.’ It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.”
Critically, the case is still in its early stages. Judge Kaplan did not opine on the “truth or falsity of charges” but simply determined Giuffre’s charges are legally sufficient to proceed.
Wednesday’s ruling is a significant step forward in the battle to recognize human trafficking as a scourge upon humanity. Today, Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies said that Giuffre “has been on a campaign to try to expose sex trafficking and the evils of sexual abuse.” If Ms. Giuffre’s allegations against Jeffrey Epstein and his cohort are true, no person, not even a prince, should be beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.