NEW YORK — A lawyer for Prince Andrew, who was sued last month by a woman accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was a minor, said in a Manhattan court on Monday that the lawsuit was likely to be invalid under the terms of an earlier confidential settlement — one that the prince’s lawyers have said the woman reached with Jeffrey Epstein.
The hearing, coming in the closely watched lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s most prominent accusers, was the first public response from Andrew, the Duke of York, and suggests that his legal team will seek to beat back any attempt to allow the suit to proceed. Andrew’s lawyer also argued Monday that his client had not been properly served with legal papers in Britain.
The lawyer, Andrew Brettler, said Giuffre’s lawsuit was “baseless, nonviable and potentially unlawful.”
“We have significant concerns about the propriety of this lawsuit,” Brettler said at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Giuffre, 38, claimed in her lawsuit that Andrew, 61, the second son of Queen Elizabeth, sexually abused her when she was under 18 at Epstein’s mansion in New York and on Epstein’s private island, Little St. James, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
She also said in the suit that Andrew, along with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, forced her to have sexual intercourse with Andrew at Maxwell’s home in London.
Andrew, who has denied Giuffre’s allegations, has not been charged with any crimes, but he has long loomed over the investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan of Epstein and Maxwell.
Epstein, 66, was arrested in July 2019 on sex-trafficking charges, and a month later, he was found dead by hanging in his cell in a Manhattan jail; the death was ruled a suicide. An indictment charged that Epstein had recruited dozens of underage girls to engage in sex acts with him at his Manhattan mansion and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, after which he paid them hundreds of dollars in cash.
Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020, faces trial in November on charges that she helped Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse underage girls. In one case, an indictment charged, she was involved in sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl, grooming her to engage in sexual acts with Epstein and later paying her. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Giuffre has said in earlier court filings that Epstein had offered her several times to Andrew for sex when she was a teenager.
Giuffre’s lawsuit against Andrew includes a photograph of him with his arm around her waist, with Maxwell smiling in the background. Giuffre’s lawsuit said the photo was taken at Maxwell's home before Andrew sexually abused her.
Other lawyers for Andrew indicated last week in a letter to Giuffre’s lawyers that he would challenge the lawsuit on the grounds that Giuffre’s lawyers had not properly served him with the complaint, a routine step giving a defendant formal notice that he has been sued.
“We are not instructed to appear in the claim brought by Giuffre in the Southern District of New York and we are not instructed to accept service of that claim on behalf of the Duke,” the lawyers, with the firm Blackfords, wrote.
The lawyers also wrote that Giuffre’s claim against Andrew may be invalid under terms of a 2009 settlement reached in a lawsuit against Epstein in Florida.
Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, had attached a copy of the letter from Andrew’s lawyers to a court filing Friday. In it, Boies said the lawyers’ suggestion that the earlier settlement “somehow releases Prince Andrew from the claims” made by Giuffre was “erroneous,” noting that Andrew had not been a party to the earlier case.
The judge, Lewis Kaplan, said in court Monday that he would hear arguments on the issue of whether the suit had been properly served. But he seemed to question the utility of the effort.
“I can see a lot of legal fees being spent and time being expended and delay, which ultimately may not be terribly productive for anyone,” Kaplan said.