Prince Andrew could face U.S. trial next fall for sexual-assault civil suit, judge rules

The trial in the sexual assault lawsuit filed against Prince Andrew won't happen until near the end of 2022, a federal judge ruled Wednesday during a brief telephone hearing in the civil case.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said he wanted to set a trial date immediately but the COVID-19 pandemic requires him to adjust timing to make accommodations for jurors' safety.

"I anticipate somewhere in the September-to-December period of next year," Kaplan told the lawyers. "We have to put in a request (for a jury trial) toward the end of the previous quarter."

He also set a series of dates in November and December of this year for briefs, motions and disclosures from attorneys. Both legal teams said they anticipate seeking depositions from eight to 12 witnesses. 

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Kaplan still has to rule on Andrew's motion to dismiss the case, so it's too early to say whether there will actually be a trial – or whether Andrew will travel to New York to appear in court for the proceedings. 

Meanwhile, the Duke of York's American lawyers, who want Kaplan to throw out the civil suit brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, told the judge that Giuffre has since been sued herself for defamation by another accuser of late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew's lawyers said they will seek to include witnesses in that case for Andrew's defense.

"There's a new lawsuit filed against the plaintiff in this case and there may be witnesses related to that new matter who need to be deposed," the prince's lead lawyer, Andrew Brettler, told Kaplan. 

Rina Oh, who says she was a victim of Epstein 20 years ago, filed a lawsuit against Giuffre last week, arguing she was defamed in a series of October 2020 tweets in which Giuffre asserted that Oh was Epstein’s girlfriend and recruited girls for him to abuse. Oh claims the FBI and other authorities have established she was not a co-conspirator or part of Epstein's inner circle, and that she has been damaged by Giuffre's alleged “false and defamatory bile.”

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Giuffre, 38, an American who lives in western Australia and has a history of filing lawsuits related to Epstein, accuses Andrew, 61, of rape and sexual assault. She claims she was sex trafficked to him at age 17 at his former friend Epstein's Manhattan home in 2001, and that the prince knew it at the time.

The queen's second son has vehemently denied Giuffre's accusations since she began publicly making them in January 2015. She hired celebrity lawyer David Boies to head her legal team, and filed her lawsuit in federal court in New York in August.

Andrew and his London lawyers initially tried to ignore the lawsuit, then hired an American team headed by Brettler, a Los Angeles-based celebrity lawyer. The two legal teams have since argued over whether Andrew was properly "served" with the lawsuit documents; the prince eventually acknowledged he was.

They also have argued whether Andrew could access a sealed document in another Epstein-related lawsuit that the prince argues absolves him of liability in lawsuits by plaintiffs such as Giuffre. The document – a settlement reached in 2009 after Giuffre sued Epstein – remains sealed for now by Kaplan's orders. Boies says Giuffre's team will prove the settlement is irrelevant at a trial. 

On Friday, Brettler filed a motion asking Kaplan to throw out Giuffre's lawsuit, arguing Andrew "never sexually abused or assaulted" her and citing multiple legal and constitutional grounds for dismissal. 

Among other reasons, Brettler argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because Giuffre's accusations are too vague on when-and-where details, and because her claims are barred under the sealed settlement agreement. 

The prince's lawyers also are challenging the constitutionality of a temporary New York state "look back" law that allowed survivors of childhood sex abuse to sue their alleged abusers years later, arguing it violates the state's due process clause. Plus, the brief asserts, Giuffre acknowledged she was 17 at the time of her alleged encounter with Andrew in New York, and thus met the age of consent. 

Giuffre "may well be a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein," the brief opened. "However, and without diminishing the harm suffered as a result of Epstein's alleged misconduct, Prince Andrew never sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre. He unequivocally denies Giuffre's false allegations against him." 

Andrew's lawyers argue that Giuffre has "profited" from her allegations against Epstein and others by selling stories and photographs to the media and by filing lawsuits and then collecting damages through secret settlement agreements.

"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," the brief asserts. "Epstein's abuse of Giuffre does not justify her public campaign against Prince Andrew." 

Giuffre's lawyers responded with two statements to USA TODAY. 

"Prince Andrew's motion to dismiss fails to confront the serious allegations in Virginia Giuffre's complaint," Boies said. "He relies on a series of disputed alleged 'facts' which will be disproved at trial and which, in any event, are inappropriate at the motion-to-dismiss stage in this litigation."

Sigrid McCawley, another of Giuffre's lawyers, praised Giuffre's "bravery" and condemned Andrew. 

"If Virginia Giuffre had stood silent in the face of outrageous statements like Prince Andrew and his legal team churn out routinely … the decades-long sex-trafficking ring his friend Jeffrey Epstein operated and he participated in would never have been exposed," McCawley's statement said. "On the subject of money, let’s be clear: The only party to this litigation using money to his benefit is Prince Andrew."

The brief details the history of lawsuits and settlements Giuffre has been involved in since 2009, when she reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with Epstein himself. The brief also asserts she received $160,000 from the Mail on Sunday tabloid in London in 2011 after agreeing to an interview and selling the paper a photograph of her with Andrew that has rocketed around the internet ever since.

USA TODAY has reached out to the Mail on Sunday for comment. 

The brief claims Giuffre herself recruited other young women into Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring, citing what a former boyfriend and other friends told the New York Daily News in 2015. Their accounts suggested Giuffre, then known as Virginia Roberts, did not behave as if she were acting against her will, the brief argues.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prince Andrew's sex-assault lawsuit might be tried in U.S. next fall

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