PRINCE Andrew's hopes of getting a bombshell lawsuit by his rape accuser dismissed were on the ropes last night after a New York judge ripped apart his lawyers’ case.
The Queen’s second son was also told he would find out “pretty soon” if he succeeded in his bid to have a lawsuit by alleged victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre thrown out of court.
But legal experts say the early signs are not good after Judge Lewis Kaplan subjected Andrew’s legal team to a bruising encounter during a crucial hearing in the Big Apple.
Andrew's lawyers had been seeking to persuade the court that Ms Giuffre had waived her right to sue him when she signed a 2009 £370,000 ($500,000) legal settlement with the now-dead paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was the duke's friend.
Yet Judge Kaplan appeared mostly dismissive of this argument.
He said part of the 2009 settlement protecting "other potential defendants" was "unclear" and pointed to two sentences in the text that seemed to suggest it could not be used by Andrew.
Ms Giuffre, 38, one of the billionaire sex offender's most high-profile victims.
She claimed she was trafficked by him and girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell to have sex with Andrew on three occasions when she was 17.
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The 61-year-old Duke vehemently denies the claims and says he has no recollection of even meeting her.
But prominent legal figures suggested Andrew’s case against Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit may have gone against him after skepticism from Judge Kaplan over his legal team’s arguments.
The Duke's attorney Andrew Brettler had argued that:
- PRINCE Andrew was covered by the “other potential defendants” clause in the settlement;
- GIUFFRE’S lawsuit against lawyer Alan Dershowitz was dismissed when the agreement was produced;
- HER claims were too “vague”, adding: “She doesn’t allege what this abuse was”. He called the way she filed them “unconstitutional”;
- FORMER New York governor Andrew Cuomo acted unconstitutionally when he extended the Child Victims Act deadline to August 2020. It allowed Ms Giuffre to file her lawsuit. Otherwise, her claims would have fallen outside New York’s statute of limitations.
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Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who now works as counsel for law firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich, told The Times: “From Andrew's point of view, it could not have gone worse.
“Judge Kaplan made it very clear that he did not accept the arguments that Prince Andrew’s counsel was making with regard to the settlement agreement.
“There were a number of times where Andrew’s counsel was reduced to saying, ‘Well, I respectfully disagree’.
“In the courtroom, respectfully disagreeing with the judge means you are about to lose.”
Earlier on yesterday, English lawyer and writer David Allen Green suggested Andrew's lawyers had to win the case by jumping through "four hurdles", reported Mail Online.
He said: "To win, Andrews lawyers have to show that: agreement as whole can be constructed so as to cover him; the phrase "potential defendant" should be interpreted to cover him; there is no rule of law/policy that prevents enforcement; he can enforce it without privity."
Ms Giuffre's lawyers, he argued, "only have to meet one of these hurdles".
The royal’s attack-dog attorney Andrew Brettler was met had been met by scepticism at almost every turn as he made his arguments, with Judge Kaplan telling him at one point: “That’s not a dog that’s going to hunt here.”
Mr Brettler argued that a newly-disclosed £371,000 secret agreement between Ms Giuffre and late financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2009 released the royal from any legal action.
And he said the settlement had resulted in a similar lawsuit from Andrew’s accuser being dismissed.
Judge Kaplan made it very clear that he did not accept the arguments that Prince Andrew’s counsel was making
Andrew’s team had been boosted by the publication on Monday of the settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, releasing “other potential defendants” from legal action.
Mr Brettler claims Ms Giuffre lied to shoehorn her allegations to fit the requirements of the Act.
Ms Giuffre sued Andrew, 61, last year, alleging he sexually assaulted her three times while she was 17 in New York, London and the Caribbean.
He denies the claims.
The mum of three, 38, says she was trafficked to the duke by paedophile Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, 60 — who was convicted of aiding her ex-lover’s abuse ring last week.
The judge, speaking to Mr Brettler, said: “You know, for a certainty, that I’m obliged to accept as true, the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint.”
He said, reading from allegations: “During this encounter, Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew forced plaintiff, a child, to have sexual intercourse with Prince Andrew against her will.”
The judge added: “I must assume the truth of this allegation.”
The Prince claimed he had “no recollection of ever meeting” Ms Giuffre, in a 2019 BBC Newsnight interview.
His legal team had appeared bullish before the 70-minute video-conference hearing in New York.
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