In August 2019, after convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died in custody while awaiting yet more criminal charges, I wrote about the dangers that lay ahead for his royal friend, Prince Andrew: “Prince Andrew has surely known that the sword of Damocles was suspended over his head by that famous single horsehair. He enjoys the grand lifestyle and power inherent with being a son of Queen Elizabeth II, yet must be aware of the precariousness of his position. And now that thread is seriously fraying. It’s all because of his own actions.”
The first week of 2022 may be when that sword drops a bit lower.
For months, he’s been fighting a civil lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, who claims that she was forced by Epstein to have sex with the prince when she was 17. Her lawsuit uses New York’s Child Victims Act, which grants greater legal options to those abused while under the age of 18.
On Jan. 4, lawyers for the prince and Giuffre will appear before District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York. The royal attorneys want the case dismissed, arguing, among other things, that Giuffre was over the age of consent (17) in New York when the alleged sexual assault took place.
Andrew appears to have little evidence to bolster his own defences that he didn’t know Giuffre, was at a birthday party at Pizza Hut when she claims they allegedly met on one occasion in London, and has a medical condition that calls her account into question. In a filing regarding dated Dec. 30, Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, was scathing: “Based on his discovery responses, Prince Andrew has apparently already determined that he has no documents that would be responsive to the majority of Plaintiff’s [Giuffre’s] requests. If Prince Andrew truly has no documents concerning his communications with Maxwell or Epstein, his travel to Florida, New York, or various locations in London, his alleged medical inability to sweat, or anything that would support the alibis he gave during his BBC interview, then continuing with discovery will not be burdensome to him at all.”
There was a possible glimmer of good news for Andrew on Jan. 3, when a confidential settlement from 2009 between Epstein and Giuffre was made public by the U.S. district judge overseeing Giuffre’s lawsuit against the Queen’s second son (as well as the judge in charge of a related legal action between Giuffre and another of Epstein’s friends, American law professor Alan Dershowitz, whom she has also accused of sexual assault.)
The settlement, which gave Giuffre US$500,000, states that Giuffre (then known as Virginia Roberts) “hereby remise, release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge the said Second Parties and any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant (“Other Potential Defendants”) from all, and all manner of, action and actions of Virginia Roberts, including State or Federal, cause and causes of action (common law or statutory), suits, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, bonds, bills.” Prince Andrew’s lawyers argue that the wording in that settlement means Giuffre signed away her right to sue the prince.
Whether or not this is the case, it’s still generating bad headlines for him around the world.
Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the criminal case involving Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted of procuring and grooming sex victims for Epstein, and who was a close friend of Andrew’s, asked lawyers involved in that case for Maxwell’s sentencing schedule to be filed by Jan. 10. One way for Maxwell, 60, to reduce her sentence may be to offer damaging evidence against Epstein’s famous friends, including the prince.
Whatever the final results of this week’s legal proceedings, the damage to “Prince Andrew, Duke of York, a/k/a Andrew Albert Christian Edward, in his personal capacity,” as he’s identified in the American legal filings, is incalculable. It’s been more than two years since the interview he gave BBC about his relationship with Epstein boomeranged on the prince, forcing him to stop undertaking any official engagements on behalf of his mother. The pressure is only intensifying with every new revelation, including photos from Maxwell’s trial of her and Epstein enjoying themselves as guests of Andrew on the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral.
Over the weekend, British papers were filled with warnings of his fate, especially if he loses the civil lawsuit. Options being bandied include casting him into “exile,” which could mean losing his right to use the title “Duke of York” and giving up his last remaining patronages, including military titles.
Even as his friends and allies keep tossing out ways for him to return to public life (the latest involves resurrecting his entrepreneurial project, Pitch@Palace) that seems all but impossible. Even if Giuffre loses her lawsuit, Prince Andrew has already lost in the court of public opinion. There’s just no going back from that.