The news broke Tuesday morning, Feb. 15, that Prince Andrew would pay to settle the lawsuit filed against him by Virginia Giuffre, who sued the royal for having sex with her while she was a minor. Giuffre alleged that billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and his partner Ghislaine Maxwell directed her to have relations with the duke of York in the early 2000s. Giuffre’s lawyer sent a letter to the New York federal court hearing the case asking for a pause in proceedings in anticipation of filing for a dismissal. The letter said Prince Andrew and Giuffre would ask to end the case once the prince paid the money, “the sum of which is not being disclosed.” The litigation surrounding Epstein’s associates, however, is not over.
The prince admitted to no wrongdoing and attempted to use the occasion to begin rehabilitating his public image. The settlement memo included language indicating Prince Andrew would make a “substantial donation” to Giuffre’s charity and that he regrets his association with Epstein. It went on to say that “Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks.”
Liar or Victim?
Given Giuffre’s allegations against the prince and his defenses to them, the statement about her character is a bit curious. Is she a liar, or was she trafficked to Andrew by Epstein and Maxwell? This settlement seems to lend support to the latter possibility. There are surely many reasons to pay off plaintiffs, even if their suits are without merit. But we can recognize that and still understand what this settlement likely means: Andrew did have relations with Giuffre when she was 17 years old.
From the outset, Giuffre had sought a settlement rather than a trial. Her initial complaint included a “tolling agreement,” which proposed to extend the statute of limitations while settlement discussions were to be held. Her lawyers wanted “to meet with Prince Andrew or his counsel to receive Prince Andrew’s information and views, and to discuss whether a negotiated resolution might be appropriate.” In 2009, Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000 to settle a lawsuit against him for having sex with her when she was a minor. Giuffre traveled extensively with Epstein and Maxwell, including to London in 2001, when Giuffre claims to have first met and slept with the royal.
Giuffre filed suit against Prince Andrew on Aug. 9, 2021, and she was permitted to sue over acts that allegedly occurred more than 20 years prior due to a special New York state law. The Child Victims Act extended the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases. Giuffre filed suit a few days before the extension expired, having heard no response to her request for a financial settlement from Prince Andrew.
Another Suit Still Pending
Giuffre is involved in another federal lawsuit, this one with famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz. She suffered a loss in that case on Valentine’s Day, before the Prince Andrew deal was announced. If the pleadings are anything to go by, we shouldn’t expect a settlement there. Dershowitz attempted to introduce evidence that Giuffre was not simply a victim of Epstein but an enthusiastic participant in the trafficking of others. Giuffre said Dershowitz was, just like Prince Andrew, one of the many men Epstein prompted her to have relations with, although the lawyer has denied ever meeting her outside of their litigation.
Carolyn Andriano, who testified against Maxwell in her recent trial for underage sex charges, claimed she was a victim of Giuffre as well as of Epstein. Andriano supports Dershowitz’ account of Giuffre as a victimizer, saying, “I don’t think Virginia deserves anything less than what Maxwell is getting because she trafficked me into a world of spiraling downward slopes.” She added, “I don’t think she deserves any compensation. I don’t think she was coerced into doing anything.” Giuffre refused to admit or deny her participation in Andriano’s trafficking, and it appears the court in the Dershowitz case is considering that an admission.
Dershowitz was a friend of Epstein and represented him in legal proceedings in Florida. The lawyer said he terminated their friendship as soon as he learned of the sex trafficking allegations against Epstein. Dershowitz has been in litigation with Giuffre since April 2019, and pre-trial discovery is ongoing.
~ Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.