On Thursday, January 13, Buckingham Palace announced His Royal Highness Prince Andrew’s “military affiliations and Royal patronages have been returned to the Queen.” This news comes one day after he lost his bid in a New York federal court to dismiss the case against him by Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre. He is now much more likely to face trial against Giuffre for having sex with her 21 years ago when she was 17 years old.
The prince will retain his HRH (His Royal Highness) title for private use within the palace, but will not henceforth be able to use it in an official capacity. It’s claimed the decision was made as the result of a mutual agreement, however it appears the palace sought fit to distance itself from Andrew amid external pressure to disavow him entirely and worries that the scandal could taint the queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee, marking the 70th year of her reign. According to the royal statement, “The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”
Ms. Giuffre has said that Ghislaine Maxwell directed her to have intimate relations with the Duke of York and that Epstein paid her $15,000 for her time with His Royal Highness. Giuffre, formerly Virginia Roberts, filed suit against Andrew in August of 2021 under New York’s Child Victims Act. The law extends the statute of limitations for civil claims of sexual abuse from five years to 37 years in this case so that accusers can file a claim until they are 55 years old.
The latest ruling from Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, denied Andrew’s pending motion to dismiss the suit, which was based on Epstein’s civil settlement with Ms. Giuffre. In 2009, Epstein and Giuffre entered into a civil settlement giving her $500,000 to drop her suit against him. The settlement document was publicly released after Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of aiding prostitution. It contained language that indicated the money paid to Giuffre released not just Epstein from liability, but “Other Potential Defendants” as well. Andrew’s legal team argued that even though the release did not mention him by name, he was included in it.
Judge Kaplan disagreed. He ruled that Prince Andrew did not have to be named explicitly to enjoy the benefit of the bargain in the settlement terms, yet he still was not entitled to benefit under it. The settlement was signed under Florida law, and the judge wrote:
“Under Florida law it is ‘[e]ssential to the right of a third-party beneficiary… to [enforce a contract which he or she is not a party that] the clear intent and purpose of the contract [was] to directly and substantially benefit the third party.’ A ‘merely incidental or consequential third-party beneficiary of a contract may not sue for its enforcement.’”
While this ruling is a win for Giuffre and a defeat for Prince Andrew, her case against the royal is far from a slam dunk. Ms. Giuffre was not a witness for the prosecution in the federal case against Maxwell, and it’s likely the reason is credibility problems with her previous testimony. Giuffre claimed she was trafficked by Epstein to famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz and had sex with him seven times. In response, the Felix Frankfurter emeritus professor of law at Harvard said, “I will prove without any doubt that she is lying about me,” and “She is going to end up in prison.”
In addition to Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz, Virginia Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, amongst others. Giuffre and Dershowitz currently are fighting each other in federal court, each suing the other. Her case against Prince Andrew could go to trial later this year.
~ Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.