Prince Andrew effort to toss sex assault suit hits roadblock

FILE - In this Sunday, April 11, 2021, file photo, Britain's Prince Andrew speaks. during a television interview at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, England, Sunday, April 11, 2021. A lawsuit by an American who claims Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was 17 might have to be thrown out because she no longer lives in the U.S., lawyers for the Prince said in a court filing Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. (Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP, File) (Steve Parsons)

NEW YORK – A judge was mostly dismissive Tuesday of arguments by a lawyer for Prince Andrew who wants to win fast rejection of a lawsuit filed by a woman who says she was sexually trafficked to the royal by the millionaire Jeffrey Epstein when she was 17.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan did not immediately rule at the end of a video conference, but he made clear that he was not leaning Andrew’s way as he rejected much of the reasoning offered by the prince's attorney, Andrew Brettler, who said the case “should absolutely be dismissed.”

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Kaplan repeatedly shot down Brettler's arguments or disputed them with other reasoning.

“So what?” Kaplan responded to one argument.

To another, he said: “I understand you are asserting that, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct."

And to another: “Mr. Brettler, I understand your point. It just isn’t the law."

When the hearing concluded, Kaplan promised a ruling soon and said he appreciated the “arguments and the passion.” The judge directed that the exchange of potential evidence in the case was to proceed as scheduled.

Virginia Giuffre sued the prince in August, saying she was coerced into sexual encounters with the prince in 2001 by Epstein and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Attorney David Boies, representing Giuffre, argued against dismissal of the lawsuit.

Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial, while Maxwell, 60, was convicted last week of sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in federal court in New York. Giuffre's allegations against Andrew were not a part of either criminal case.

The prince has strenuously denied Giuffre's allegations.

During Tuesday's arguments, Kaplan rejected Brettler's assertion that Giuffre's claims were too vague and that she failed to “articulate what happened to her at the hands of Prince Andrew.”

In the lawsuit and in interviews, Giuffre has said she was sexually abused by Andrew at Maxwell's London home, at Epstein’s New York mansion and his estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The judge read aloud a portion of the lawsuit in which Giuffre alleged “involuntary sexual intercourse.”

“There isn’t any doubt what that means,” Kaplan said.

When Brettler continued his claim that the lawsuit lacked sufficient facts to be allowed to proceed toward trial, Kaplan reminded him that a judge is required to accept the assertions in a lawsuit as true at this stage of the case.

During much of a hearing that lasted over an hour, Brettler argued that the prince is protected from being sued by a 2009 settlement agreement between Epstein and Giuffre. The agreement, under which Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000, was unsealed and became publicly available Monday.

Under that deal, Giuffre agreed to release her claims against “potential defendants,” but the judge repeatedly disagreed with Brettler's argument that wording prevented her from suing the prince.

Kaplan noted that there could be many interpretations of what constituted a potential defendant, and that the only parties who would know exactly what was intended were Giuffre and Epstein.

“This is an example where the word ‘potential’ is the use of a word to which you or I cannot find any meaning at all,” the judge said.

He also noted that the sealing of the terms of the settlement deal for a dozen years meant that anyone the parties might have intended to be protected against future lawsuits by Giuffre would never have known, since they couldn't see it.

And Kaplan said that if Epstein's lawyers wanted to prevent Giuffre from suing any person or entity involved in any way in sexual activity with Epstein or others, “it would have been easy to say it.”

The judge also appeared dismissive of other claims by Brettler, including one involving the constitutionality of New York's decision to temporarily allow people sexually abused as children to file lawsuits past the usual deadline for legal action.

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