Prince Andrew suffers setback in sex assault case as judge refuses to unseal document

·3-min read
Prince Andrew, Duke of York - David Moffitt/Getty Images
Prince Andrew, Duke of York - David Moffitt/Getty Images

The Duke of York has suffered an early setback in his US sex assault case after a judge refused to unseal a document that could invalidate the damages claim.

Prince Andrew, 61, is said to be pinning his hopes on the settlement – signed by his long time accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre in 2009 – which allegedly prevents her from suing.

It came as Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, warned him to accept the lawsuit, saying: “Service is not intended to be a game of hide and seek behind palace walls.”

The Duke’s US lawyer, Andrew Brettler, told a pre-trial hearing on Monday that he believed the agreement Ms Giuffe made with Jeffrey Epstein released the Duke and others from “any and all potential liability”. 

The decision to keep it under wraps means the Duke will now have to engage with his own court process in order to request a copy. That would mean accepting that he has been served the lawsuit and then being exposed to a potentially damaging discovery process.

Watch: Prince Andrew accused of playing game of 'hide and seek' - as US judge rules legal papers can be served Stateside

Alan Dershowitz steps in

Alan Dershowitz, a former lawyer for Epstein, had asked a judge to give the Duke’s lawyers a copy of the confidential settlement, believing it will allow them to get the case dropped.

Ms Giuffre had accused Mr Dershowitz of sexual assault in 2019. But she reportedly dropped the claim last month as a direct result of the agreement.

"The same reasons for dismissing the case against me seem to apply to Prince Andrew," Mr Dershowitz said. "These documents should get the charges against Prince Andrew thrown out."

He urged the judge in his own case, Loretta Preska, to unseal the document, warning he was “compelled not to sit back silently” knowing its contents.

“The issue before the court is a matter of professional ethics and the interests of justice,” he said.

Alan Dershowitz at the Oxford Union - Roger Askew/Shutterstock
Alan Dershowitz at the Oxford Union - Roger Askew/Shutterstock

'No basis' to obtain the document

However, Judge Preska was cutting in her response, stating there was “no basis” for him to obtain the document for a party in a different case.

“To the court’s knowledge, Mr Dershowitz has not been commissioned as a roving ethics monitor,” she said.

The judge noted that Prince Andrew may have “valid reasons” for trying to obtain the agreement but that he could do so through the discovery process in his own case.

Meanwhile, the Duke’s legal team has sought to further delay the court process by challenging the High Court’s agreement to serve him with the claim.

In a move that risks exasperating New York federal judge Lewis Kaplan, his solicitor Gary Bloxsome claimed on Thursday that due process had still not been followed.

The High Court was forced to intervene in the ongoing litigation when Prince Andrew refused to accept that the lawsuit, sent by courier to his Windsor home, posted to his lawyer’s office and sent by email, had not been properly served.

Mr Bloxsome said in order to comply with the Hague convention, a British court official had to deliver the paperwork.

After representation from Ms Giuffre’s legal team, the court accepted the request for service. However, Mr Bloxsome said the request had to be made by Judge Kaplan.

Ms Giuffre claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke three times when she was 17. The Duke denies all the claims and says he has “no recollection” of meeting her.

Watch: Prince Andrew: High Court accepts Virginia Giuffre's request to formally contact duke over alleged sexual assault case

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