A woman who has alleged that Prince Andrew, Duke of York, sexually assaulted her when she was 17 will get her day in an American court.
Judge Lewis Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Wednesday rejected the prince’s efforts to torpedo a civil suit filed by Virginia Giuffre, who has said that in 2001, she was drawn into the net of underage girls abused by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to the BBC.
Prince Andrew has denied Giuffre’s allegations of a sexual relationship between the two, which she says took place while she was being trafficked by Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted last month on federal sex trafficking charges.
Giuffre, who was known as Virginia Roberts at the time, had signed a 2009 agreement with Epstein that ended her claims against him for her alleged sexual abuse at his hands.
The prince claimed that the agreement should end any effort by Giuffre to drag him into court in a civil suit.
But Kaplan on Wednesday disagreed, and in his ruling said that although he was not endorsing the truth of any of Giuffre’s allegations, he also could not grant Prince Andrew’s request to throw out the suit.
“[I]t is not open to the court now to decide, as a matter of fact, just what the parties to the release in the 2009 settlement agreement signed by Ms. Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein actually meant,” he ruled.
Although Kaplan wrote that the deal did in fact say that other potential defendants could not be sued because of the agreement, the language was too murky for him to be able to say that it was intended to mean Prince Andrew could not be sued.
“The parties have articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language. The agreement, therefore, is ambiguous. Accordingly, the determination of the meaning of the release language in the 2009 Agreement must await further proceedings,” Kaplan wrote.
“The 2009 Agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, that the parties intended to instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially’ to benefit Prince Andrew,” he wrote.
“The existence of the requisite intent to benefit him, or others comparable to him, is an issue of fact that could not properly be decided on this motion even if the defendant fell within the releasing language, which itself is ambiguous,” he wrote.
Kaplan made it very clear that the ruling was based not upon the merits of Giuffre’s case, saying that he was not judging the “defendant’s efforts to cast doubt on the truth of Ms. Giuffre’s allegations, even though his efforts would be permissible at trial.”
The lawsuit says Giuffre was in fear for her life and was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew against her will, according to the New York Post.
David Boies, the attorney for Giuffre, said he plans to depose Prince Andrew as part of his pre-trial interviews.
Meghan Markle could also be deposed because she has ties to the royal family, Boies said.
In covering the ruling for Sky News, royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills called it an “enormous blow to the Duke of York.”
“For the rest of the Royal Family, who have tried to distance themselves from the scandal, it will remain a deeply damaging distraction in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year,” she wrote.
She said the longer the case hangs fire, the more the prince’s image suffers.
“The legal toing and froing continues, with Prince Andrew’s team now under pressure to disclose deeply personal information about him – and the duke expected to tell his side of events. Of course, he may be able to appeal, he could settle the case out of court, or he may win at trial,” she wrote.
“But one thing is guaranteed: this ruling means the spotlight firmly remains on Prince Andrew, and any attempt at rebuilding his reputation remains on ice.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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