Though the federal sex-trafficking case against Jeffrey Epstein ended with his death, several alleged co-conspirators are now wrapped up in litigation stemming from their involvement with the late sex offender. Among the most prominent is Prince Andrew, the British royal who was sued for damages in August by alleged Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre for allegedly raping and sexually abusing her when she was 17. “I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” Giuffre said in a statement last month. “The powerful and the rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions.” The prince certainly qualifies as part of that cohort: As Queen Elizabeth’s third child, he is ninth in line to the British crown.
With the case beginning in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, below is everything we know about the allegations, the civil lawsuit, and how it could impact the Duke of York, who stepped down from public life amid the fallout from the scandal.
What does the lawsuit allege?
The lawsuit filed in August in Manhattan federal court by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s most prominent alleged victims, claims that after she was coerced into his sex-trafficking operation, he forced her on several occasions to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17 and he was around 40. Repeating prior claims, the suit alleges that the prince committed “sexual assault and battery upon Plaintiff” at Epstein’s New York City mansion when she and “another victim” were forced to “sit on Prince Andrew’s lap as Prince Andrew toucher her.” During this visit, the lawsuit claims, the royal also forced Giuffre to “engage in sex acts against her will.” It also alleges that Prince Andrew abused Giuffre on Epstein’s private jet and that he raped her at the home of alleged Epstein madame Ghislaine Maxwell in London. (Maxwell is currently facing criminal charges alleging that she trafficked children for Epstein; her trial is scheduled to start on November 29.) The lawsuit also includes a picture of Prince Andrew with his arm around Giuffre’s waist in which Maxwell appears in the background. The royal has previously claimed the photo was doctored, and he has never faced criminal charges.
“During each of the aforementioned incidents, Plaintiff was compelled by express or implied threats by Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Prince Andrew to engage in sexual acts with Prince Andrew, and feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew due to their powerful connections, wealth, and authority,” the lawsuit states.
“As such, Prince Andrew is responsible for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress pursuant to New York common law,” the filing claims. “The damage to Plaintiff has been severe and lasting.” Giuffre is requesting damages to be determined by the court.
Is the lawsuit likely to go forward?
Many civil suits are settled before they reach the trial stage, with a financial payment provided to the plaintiff and no admission of guilt from the defendant. But the trial will at least reach the preliminary stage on Monday; Manhattan Federal Court Judge Lewis Kaplan is set to preside over a pre-trial hearing via telephone conference at 4 p.m. on Monday.
The main topic of the conference is expected to be efforts to serve Prince Andrew with the lawsuit. An affidavit filed on Friday said the Duke of York was finally served on August 27 at the Royal Lodge in Windsor. A process server says that after initially being turned away, he was allowed to leave the papers with a police officer at the main gate to the Windsor Castle estate.
Prince Andrew’s lawyers are not expected to attend the hearing on Monday, according to the Times of London. But they sent a letter that argued the suit wasn’t served following proper procedures under the Hague Convention. “We reiterate that our client reserves all his rights, including to contest the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts (including on the basis of potentially defective service),” the attorneys wrote. According to the Daily Beast, his legal team now includes the Los Angeles attorney Andrew B. Brettler, who has represented clients including Bryan Singer and Armie Hammer.
In an interview with CNN, New York University law professor Melissa Murray said that if the royal’s lawyers do not engage, he may face directed judgment and possible financial damages — aside from the public damage he could experience by ignoring the case. Attorney Spencer Kuvin, who has represented several Epstein victims in other suits, has claimed that damages “easily” could “range in excess” of $19 million.
Why was the lawsuit filed in New York and why now?
The suit explains that Giuffre is filing in Manhattan federal court because she alleges that Prince Andrew “sexually abused [the] plaintiff in this state, and has thus committed a tortious [wrongful] action within this state.” As for the timing, in February 2019, former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law, providing adult survivors a one-year window to sue in civil court for crimes that occurred when they were underage. (The law expanded the timeframe for survivors to file from their 23rd birthday to their 55th.) Because of the pandemic, the window to file was extended until August 14, 2021; Giuffre announced her suit on August 9.
The Child Victims Act and the location of one of the alleged crimes in New York make it much more advantageous for Giuffre to file in Manhattan, rather than in the United Kingdom, where Prince Andrew resides. “In theory, she could sue for damages in England but, given the dates of the alleged offences, it is likely that Prince Andrew would be able to argue that any claim was time-barred and could not be brought,” British attorney Richard Spafford told the Guardian.
How has Prince Andrew responded to the allegations?
The royal’s general response to his involvement in the Epstein scandal should go down as a lesson in what not to do in PR-crisis situations. Despite the picture of him with his arm around the waist of a then-17-year-old Giuffre, Prince Andrew has claimed he has “no recollection” of meeting her and has denied all wrongdoing. In an attempt to defend himself, he appeared on BBC’s Newsnight in November 2019, saying he did not regret his friendship with Epstein because it was “useful” and staying at his home was “convenient.” He also added that he was too “polite” to cut off the connection.
As for the Giuffre allegations, he provided a bizarre alibi against one interaction in 2001 with the 17-year-old — in which she claimed he was sweating profusely — by saying that he physically was not able to sweat two decades ago. “I have a peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat, or I didn’t sweat at the time,” he said. “I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at, and I simply … it was almost impossible for me to sweat. And it’s only because I have done a number of things in the recent past that I am starting to be able to do that again.”
How has he responded to U.S. investigators?
Despite claiming in 2019 that he would cooperate with “appropriate” authorities on investigations into his alleged abuses, he has not responded to FBI and U.S. prosecutors’ requests to question him. After ignoring voluntary requests for testimony early in 2020, he began dodging prosecutors’ queries made through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to the British Home Office, which would allow a British court to question him.
According to a recent report, Prince Andrew is now hiding out at one of his mother’s vacation estates: the Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
How could the lawsuit impact Prince Andrew beyond just a potential payment?
While millions of dollars in restitution may not be an extreme consequence for the Duke of York, a hypothetical settlement could create more legal concerns. “He is on record as saying that he had nothing to do with her,” law professor Melissa Murray told CNN. “And so any effort to settle at this point would appear to be a statement that there is some truth to her allegations.”
If the lawsuit does move forward, that could be even more concerning for him. “To have discovery, take depositions, [and] surface evidence means that anything that comes up in this civil suit that is made public can then be used as a basis for criminal charges against him, or any other person whose name is surfaced in this particular dispute,” Murray added. “He has a lot of general exposure and things to think about at this point.”
While extradition to the U.S. is not going to happen for a civil suit involving a British royal, the prince may not be able to visit the States for some time.
British attorney Richard Spafford wouldn’t advise such a trip, telling the Guardian that if Prince Andrew did so, “it would then be more difficult for him to argue that he is not subject to the jurisdiction of the NY court.”