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Judge rules sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew can move ahead

<i>Florida Southern District Court</i><br/>A federal judge in New York denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Prince Andrew filed by Virginia Giuffre
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Florida Southern District Court
A federal judge in New York denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Prince Andrew filed by Virginia Giuffre

By Eric Levenson and Lauren del Valle, CNN

A federal judge in New York on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Prince Andrew filed by Virginia Giuffre, a woman who alleges she was sexually trafficked to the royal when she was underage.

“Ms. Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous,'” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in the ruling. “It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.”

Giuffre alleged in the lawsuit that the late financier Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her and forced her to have sex with his friends, including the Prince, and that Andrew was aware she was underage (17) in the US at the time. She alleges the Prince sexually abused her at Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands, at his mansion in Manhattan and at his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London.

Prince Andrew has denied the allegations and had moved to dismiss the suit. CNN has reached out to his attorneys for further comment.

The ruling sets up a dramatic series of legal proceedings for Queen Elizabeth II’s third child that could have major ramifications for Buckingham Palace. The long-running allegations against Andrew, 61, have already dramatically tarnished his public standing, and he stepped back from royal duties in late 2019.

Andrew has until July 14 to potentially answer questions about the case under oath, following a ruling made by Kaplan last year. If the case is not settled, Prince Andrew could face a trial date between September and December 2022.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying, “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”

Giuffre’s attorney Sigrid McCawley said the judge’s ruling is “another important step in Virginia’s heroic and determined pursuit of justice as a survivor of sex trafficking.”

The civil suit stems from the sprawling and disturbing allegations against Epstein, the wealthy sex offender who befriended a series of powerful men despite a sketchy history.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges and in July 2019 was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors accused him of carrying out a decades long scheme of sexual abuse of underage girls, flying them on private planes to his properties in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. He died by suicide in prison before he could face trial.

Maxwell, his former girlfriend and close associate, was arrested in 2020 and accused of facilitating the abuse scheme. A federal jury convicted her in December on five federal counts, including sex trafficking a minor and conspiracy.

Giuffre was not one of the four women who testified in Maxwell’s trial that they had been abused. Still, she was mentioned in the trial when Carolyn, one of the victims, testified that Giuffre had recruited her to come to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Florida.

What the ruling means

Kaplan’s ruling Wednesday allowed the lawsuit to continue, but he did not determine the facts or validity of the case.

The prince’s attorneys had argued that Giuffre’s lawsuit violated the terms of her 2009 settlement agreement with Epstein in Florida, in which she agreed to a “general release” of claims against Epstein and others. That settlement, which was released to the public last week, shows that Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000 to drop the case without any admission of liability or fault. The prince’s name does not explicitly appear as a party.

However, Giuffre’s attorney David Boies argued the settlement is irrelevant to her claim against the prince, noting Andrew did not know about it at the time and that it didn’t apply to him.

In the ruling, Kaplan wrote that both sides put forth “reasonable interpretations” of the settlement’s meaning.

“The agreement therefore is ambiguous. Accordingly, the determination of the meaning of the release language in the 2009 Agreement must await further proceedings,” he wrote.

Giuffre brought her case under the Child Victims Act, a New York state law enacted in 2019 that temporarily expanded the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases to give survivors more opportunities to seek justice. Prince Andrew’s attorneys argued that the law is unconstitutional, but the judge rejected the argument, citing another judge’s analysis that this line of argument was “creative” but “without merit.”

Further, the judge denied the defense’s request for a clearer statement of facts from Giuffre, writing in his opinion that Prince Andrew will naturally obtain more details about the claims during the pretrial discovery process. Kaplan also rejected the defense assertion that Giuffre’s claims in the complaint are vague or ambiguous.

What Giuffre alleges

In claims made prior to filing her lawsuit, Giuffre alleged that in 2001 Epstein brought her to London, where she was introduced to Prince Andrew and went dancing at a nightclub with Epstein, Maxwell and the Prince.

In a BBC interview broadcast in 2019, Giuffre said she had been taken to the Tramp nightclub where, Giuffre alleged, Andrew asked her to dance and was “sweating all over me.”

Andrew has denied the claims, telling the BBC in 2019: “It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”

He claimed in the same interview that he could not sweat, due to a rare medical condition, and that on the night he is alleged to have had sex with Giuffre, he was in fact taking his daughter to a party at a Pizza Express restaurant in Woking, southwest of London.

Giuffre’s lawyers asked Andrew in court filings to provide documents proving both of those claims. Andrew’s team responded that he was unable to do so, because he has no documents proving a medical condition that prevents sweating, and could not identity anyone he encountered at the pizza restaurant.

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CNN’s Max Foster, Sonia Moghe, Rob Picheta, Kara Scannell and Brian Vitagliano contributed to this report.

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