Judge blocks Prince Andrew's attempt to halt sex abuse lawsuit
NEW YORK (AP) - Prince Andrew’s effort to immediately block the progression of a lawsuit by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her when she was 17 — on the grounds that she no longer lives in the U.S. — was rejected by a federal judge as oral arguments were set to proceed Monday on the prince's request to dismiss the lawsuit.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, in a written order Friday, told the prince’s lawyers they must turn over documents on the schedule that has been set in the lawsuit brought in August by Virginia Giuffre. Giuffre says she was abused by the prince on multiple occasions in 2001 while she was being sexually abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein. The prince’s attorney, Andrew Brettler, has called the lawsuit "baseless."
The order was filed three days before the scheduled public release Monday of a 2009 settlement agreement between Epstein and Giuffre. Lawyers for Andrew say that the agreement protects the prince from claims like those brought by Giuffre and will be sufficient grounds for the lawsuit's dismissal.
The prince's lawyers had claimed that the evidence was so strong that Giuffre does not reside in the United States that it was pointless to exchange evidence until that question is resolved because it could result in the lawsuit's dismissal.
They argued that Giuffre has lived in Australia all but two of the past 19 years, has an Australian driver’s license and lives in a $1.9 million home in Perth, Western Australia, where she has been raising three children with her husband, who is Australian.
In a statement, Giuffre attorney Sigrid McCawley called the request to halt the case "just another in a series of tired attempts by Prince Andrew to duck and dodge the legal merits of the case Virginia Giuffre has brought against him. All parties in litigation are subject to discovery and Prince Andrew is no exception."
Kaplan, in a one-page order, noted that the prince's lawyers have requested that "extensive" materials be turned over by Giuffre by Jan. 14, including documents related to where she has lived. And he said the prince's attorneys have not yet formally raised the defense that the lawsuit cannot proceed on the grounds that Giuffre has been living in Australia rather than Colorado, where her lawyers say she is a resident.
In the cover page of a lawsuit in September 2015, Giuffre listed her address as Penrose, Colorado. In the cover letter of an April 2019 lawsuit, she listed her address as Palm Cove, Australia, and marked a box as "citizen or subject of a foreign country." But in her lawsuit against the prince, she listed her address as Ocean Reef, Western Australia, but checked a box that said "citizen of another state."
Kaplan's order expressed no opinion on the merits of the prince's claims that Giuffre should be disqualified from suing because she lives in Australia.
Oral arguments via a video teleconference on the prince's request to dismiss the case are scheduled for Monday morning.
In October, the prince's lawyers attacked the lawsuit on multiple grounds, saying Giuffre had made false claims against Andrew because he "never sexually abused or assaulted" her.
"Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him. Epstein’s abuse of Giuffre does not justify her public campaign against Prince Andrew," the written arguments said.
Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges.
His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, was convicted Wednesday of charges including sex trafficking and conspiracy after a month-long trial.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they choose to come forward publicly, as Giuffre has.