Lawyers

Prince Andrew can request unsealing of 2009 Epstein settlement, decide says

Prince Andrew can request the unsealing of a 2009 settlement agreement that his lawyer claims protects him from a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted a girl two decades ago, a US judge in New York has said.

Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said in a written order on Thursday that the prince could seek the information to support arguments that the agreement between Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein disallows her lawsuit against the prince.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 while he awaited a sex trafficking trial. The death was ruled a suicide.

On Monday, the attorney Andrew Brettler, representing the prince, told a Manhattan federal judge that he believed the settlement agreement “absolves our client from any and all liability”.

Brettler spoke at the first court hearing to result from the August lawsuit, in which Giuffre alleged that Andrew had abused her on multiple occasions in 2001, when she was under 18. Andrew has said the abuse never happened.

Brettler did not return a message seeking comment on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, lawyers for Giuffre asked another judge to rule that the prince had been properly notified of Giuffre’s lawsuit.

Lawyers for Giuffre have argued they already properly served Andrew in England, when a copy of the lawsuit was left with a police officer guarding the prince’s home in Windsor.

US district judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled Giuffre can try an alternative means of serving her legal papers so the prince can address her claims, saying a plan to deliver the lawsuit to Andrew’s Los Angeles-based lawyer was “reasonably calculated to bring the papers served to the defendant’s attention”, regardless of whether the prince “authorized” the lawyer to accept it.

The ruling was one day after London’s high court said it would arrange for Andrew to be served if the parties failed to work out their own arrangement.

Lawyers for Giuffre have said the prince was “actively evading” formal efforts to serve him with Giuffre’s lawsuit. Judge Kaplan ruled barely six hours after Giuffre formally requested his intervention, saying “service is not intended to be a game of hide and seek behind palace walls”.

The lawyers noted that Brettler planned to raise a defense based on the 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Epstein of a Florida state case to which Andrew was not a party.

Preska, the Manhattan judge, has presided over requests to unseal large portions of court filings related to a lawsuit Giuffre brought against Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell in 2015.

The defamation lawsuit, which alleged Maxwell subjected Giuffre to “public ridicule, contempt and disgrace” by calling her a liar, was settled and the case dismissed in May 2017.

The judge referenced the prince in an order rejecting the attorney Alan Dershowitz’s attempt to unseal “a settlement agreement” that was designated confidential and sealed as part of records in the lawsuit Giuffre brought against Maxwell.

The judge said Dershowitz, who claimed he was seeking the unsealing “as a matter of professional ethics” because he believed Giuffre’s claims in the lawsuit against the prince were barred by the settlement, could not seek the records because he was not a party to the lawsuit against Andrew.

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

“The court notes, however, that parties who have standing … and perhaps Prince Andrew, who has not been heard from … may seek to lift the protective order for valid reasons,” she added.

A lawyer for Dershowitz did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Thursday.

Maxwell, 59, is awaiting a November trial and denies sex trafficking charges that allege she procured girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.

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