Judge rules Prince Andrew must face sexual abuse lawsuit

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled against dismissing a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Prince Andrew by Virginia Giuffre, an American woman who claims she was trafficked to the British prince by child predator and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein when she was underage.

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In an opinion filed Wednesday in court, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said that attorneys for Andrew failed to prove that Giuffre’s lawsuit was “legally insufficient.”

Attorneys for Andrew argued for dismissal of the case last year, pointing to a 2009 agreement between Giuffre and Epstein, which included a “broad release” that they said covered “any and all persons who Giuffre identified as potential targets of future lawsuits, regardless of the merit – or lack thereof – to any such claims.” Specifically, attorneys pointed to the fact that Giuffre mentioned “royalty” in the complaint that led to the agreement.

Giuffre’s attorneys have argued that Andrew was not mentioned in the complaint and that the “broad release” did not apply to him.

>> Related: Prince Andrew could face US trial in 2022 over alleged sexual abuse, judge says

In his opinion, Kaplan ruled that the 2009 agreement was “ambiguous” and that further court proceedings would be necessary to determine the exact meaning of its wording.

“In this case, everyone agrees that the phrase ‘could have been included as a potential defendant (’Other Potential Defendants’)’ must mean something,” Kaplan wrote. “In fact, however, the meaning of the phrase is far from self evident.”

The judge noted in his ruling that he was required to consider allegations made in Giuffre’s complaint as fact “for the purposes of this motion.”

>> Related: Ghislaine Maxwell convicted in Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse case

“The law prohibits the court from considering at this stage of the proceedings (Andrew’s) efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms. Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at a trial,” he wrote.

Giuffre sued Andrew in August, alleging that she was sexually abused by the prince in London, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands after meeting him in 2001, when she was 17.

In a complaint, attorneys for Giuffre said Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend, recruited her to massage Epstein and later engage in sexual activities with him in 2000, when she was a 16-year-old working at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. She said that in the following years, she was “on call for Epstein for sexual purposes” and also “lent out to other powerful men,” including Andrew.

>> Related: Jeffrey Epstein accuser sues Prince Andrew over alleged sexual abuse

Andrew has denied having sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre.

The lawsuit was filed more than a year after Epstein, 66, committed suicide while awaiting trial in 2019 in a federal jail cell in New York. He had been accused of sexually abusing and exploiting dozens of girls between 2002 and 2005.

Last month, a jury convicted Maxwell of helping to recruit young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein. She awaits sentencing.

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