On Thursday morning, Prince Andrew was spotted leaving Royal Lodge, his home on the Windsor Great Park estate, in the back seat of a Range Rover. The appearance came one day after U.S. district judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre can move forward in the courts. Kaplan dismissed arguments made by Andrew’s U.S.-based lawyer Andrew Brettler in a hearing earlier this month, including his claim that a previous settlement between Epstein and Giuffre included protections for Andrew as a “potential defendant.”
A few hours later, Buckingham Palace announced that Andrew had further distanced himself from royal duties, by giving his honorary titles back to Queen Elizabeth. “With the queen’s approval and agreement, the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the queen,” the statement read. “The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages for sexual assault under New York’s Child Victims Act is now entering the discovery phase. According to Spencer Kuvin, a Florida-based lawyer who has represented nine of Epstein’s alleged victims, that means Andrew may be forced to sit for a deposition, where he will speak under penalty of perjury. In an interview with the Mirror, Kuvin explained that the process could include other members of the royal family.
“Andrew’s disastrous BBC Newsnight interview will haunt him,” he said, referencing the November 2019 interview that led to Andrew stepping back from royal duties. “He mentioned his wife as well as his daughters. They can now all legally be deposed. The lawyers could even try for the queen. I don’t doubt they will, but as a sovereign, it will be almost impossible to do.”
The lawsuit pertains to Giuffre’s allegation that Epstein forced her to have sex with Andrew on three separate occasions when she was a minor. (Andrew has absolutely and categorically denied the claims and said he has no recollection of meeting her.) Kuvin said the deposition could get intimate and personal. “It is without question the Duke will be asked about his private parts,” he said. “Nothing is off limits because if an underage girl can describe what the Duke of York’s private parts look like… How would that be if they had not had a relationship?”
In a Thursday statement, Andrew’s office responded to Kaplan’s ruling. “Given the robustness with which Judge Kaplan greeted our arguments, we are unsurprised by the ruling. However, it was not a judgement on the merits of Ms Giuffre’s allegations,” it read, according to ITV’s Chris Ship. “This is a marathon not a sprint, and the Duke will continue to defend himself against these claims.”
A source close to Andrew told the Mirror that Andrew is not currently interested in pursuing an out-of-court settlement, adding that it is “not an option being considered at the moment.”
In an interview this week with the BBC, famed litigator David Boies, who is on the legal team representing Giuffre in the suit against Andrew, said that his client isn’t simply seeking a financial settlement. “I think it’s very important to Virginia Giuffre that this matter be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates the other victims,” he said. “I don’t think she has a firm view at this point, nor could she, as to exactly what a solution should be.”
Media lawyer Mark Stephens told the broadcaster that a trial could cause reputational damage for the entire royal family. “Judge Lewis Kaplan has thrown a reasoned judicial decision like a bomb into the middle and the heart of the royal family and threatens to provoke constitutional crisis as a consequence,” he said, adding that Andrew has “no good options” in the matter. “Essentially, I think he’s either going to have to engage in the trial process or he’s going to have to settle and that may well be his least worst option.”
According to The Telegraph, if Andrew cooperates with the trial process, it would mark the first time a royal family member has made a court appearance since 2002, when Princess Anne pleaded guilty to a violation of the Dangerous Dogs Act at a magistrates’ court in Berkshire.
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