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Judge advances sex abuse suit against Prince Andrew

The second-born son of Queen Elizabeth had argued unsuccessfully that he is shielded from claims through a $500,000 settlement that Jeffrey Epstein made before his death with an underage victim.

MANHATTAN (CN) — A civil case against Prince Andrew from Virginia Giuffre, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage sex ring, can proceed to trial, a New York federal judge ruled Wednesday morning.

Giuffre sued the prince in August, claiming that he abused her on multiple occasions in 2001 when she was a 17-year-old victim of the sex trafficking ring Epstein ran for decades with the help of his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

Epstein famously died in jail ahead of a federal trial on related charges, but Maxwell was convicted late last month.

In a 44-page opinion made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the British royal’s hail Mary attempt to toss out Giuffre’s lawsuit on the grounds that she waived her right to sue in the 2009 deal with Epstein. This settlement, unsealed last week, refers to Epstein and “his agent(s), attorney(s), predecessor(s), successor(s), heir(s), administrator(s), assign(s) and/or employee(s)” as the "Second Parties” of the settlement agreement, but additionally includes a provision to release "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant.”

Judge Kaplan noted Wednesday, however, that the $500,000 settlement between Epstein and Giuffre did not involve the prince, and “clearly and unambiguously” does not prohibit a suit against him now.

"The existence of the requisite intent to benefit him or others comparable to him, is an issue of fact that could properly be decided on this motion even if defendant fell within the releasing language, which itself is ambiguous,” the opinion states.

"Thus, independent of whether the release language applies to Prince Andrew, the agreement, at a minimum, is 'reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation' on the equally important question of whether this defendant may invoke it,” the Clinton-appointed judge wrote. "As a matter of Florida law, this Court cannot rewrite the 2009 Agreement to give defendant rights where the agreement does not clearly manifest an intent to create them."

Kaplan goes on to say in the opinion that the 2009 agreement was “far from a model of clear and precise drafting.”

Giuffre alleges in her complaint that Prince Andrew forced her to have sex with him at Maxwell’s apartment in London, as well as at Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, known as Little Saint James.

Prince Andrew’s lawyers have said that Andrew never sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre and that he “unequivocally denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.”

The 61-year-old Duke of York himself has strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations.

Judge Kaplan noted that he was required by law, at this stage of the legal proceedings, to litigate as if the allegations made by Giuffre are true.

“The law prohibits the Court from considering at this stage of the proceedings defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms. Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial,” the judge wrote.

Prince Andrew’s Los Angeles-based attorneys did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday morning.

In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that sex with Giuffre “didn’t happen” and he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her.

The interview was widely denounced by critics who said the prince appeared insensitive to Epstein’s victims. Afterward, Prince Andrew stepped back from royal duties.

Giuffre is represented in the suit by high-profile New York attorney David Boies, whose firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, decided to represent her pro bono in her dueling defamation case against Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz.

Dershowitz has repeatedly denied Giuffre’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her during visits to Epstein’s properties, and accused her lawyers of pressuring her to make false claims of underage sexual abuse for “revenge” and a “big payday.”

Last month, Judge Kaplan said a trial in Giuffre's lawsuit against the prince could occur between September and December 2022.

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