A US District Court in New York held a pre-trial video conference in the civil suit filed by Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts), the woman alleging she was trafficked out by the late pedophile tycoon Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was a minor under US law – a claim the disgraced royal has consistently denied.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan urged Prince Andrew’s legal team to “cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance,” after the sex assault case against the royal entered its first preliminary hearing on Monday, according to the Daily Mail.
The hearing, held by video conference at a federal court in New York, was the first since Roberts, 38, filed a civil lawsuit against the embattled Duke of York last month, alleging she was trafficked out by the late convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with the Queen’s son when she was 17.
The two sides have clashed over whether Prince Andrew had been successfully served with a court summons or not. Lawyer for the plaintiff, David Boies, said that in his view the procedure had been validly carried out, in line with Article 10 of the Hague Convention. Boies added that “it’s clear Prince Andrew has actual notice of this complaint and proceeding.”
In court documents filed last Friday, Virginia Roberts’s lawyers claimed that Prince Andrew had been served on August 27. The according paperwork was handed to a a Metropolitan Police officer who was on duty at the main gates of the Queen’s son’s residence in Windsor Great Park on 27 August.
The Duke of York’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, has disputed this.
“We do contest the validity of service to date, The Duke has not been properly served under either UK law or pursuant to the Hague convention… We have significant concerns about the propriety of this lawsuit that’s been filed. We’ve been in correspondence with the High Court in the UK, and the High Court in the UK is going to have to determine whether service to date has been affected properly on the Duke,” Brettler told the court Monday, according to the outlet.
Judge Kaplan is cited as having pointed out to the royal’s legal team that “the Hague Convention is optional”, adding that service could be effected upon a foreign national under US Federal Rule 4(f)(3) without involving their government, “by other means not prohibited by international agreement, as the court orders.”
The Judge indicated he would likely grant that order and was “unlikely to change my mind unless I hear something new.”
During the 30-minute hearing the Duke of York’s lawyer also slammed the lawsuit targeting the royal as “baseless, non-viable and potentially unlawful”. Andrew Brettler pointed to the prior settlement agreement that the plaintiff had entered into, which in effect releases the royal from “any and all potential liability.”
The settlement was signed by Roberts in 2009 with the billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The settlement was subsequently used by US lawyer Alan Dershowitz to have the woman drop her battery allegation against him. Brettler reportedly alleged to it as a “secret settlement agreement” that could “release the Duke of any liability as we suspect it does.”
The judge offered an “alternative service” of the legal papers through other channels within a week, however the two sides tussled over the necessity of this.
“Mr Brettler, I think we’re making this a lot more complicated than it really is,” Judge Kaplan was cited as eventually saying.
The judge gave the plaintiff’s lawyers one week to request another attempt at serving the court summons by other means, such as the Hague Convention or a legal mechanism called Rule 4F3.
‘Battery, Infliction of Emotional Distress’
Virginia Roberts, now a married mother-of-three living in Australia, and goes by her married name, Giuffre, alleges she was forced to have sex with prince Andrew on at least three occasions. The first time was purportedly at the London townhouse of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged madam, or “pimp”.
Maxwell is currently in jail, charged with grooming and sex trafficking girls for the financier. The second time, in early 2001, was supposedly at Epstein’s New York mansion, and the third time was on the tycoon’s private island in the Caribbean. The formal allegations against the Duke of York are “battery and infliction of emotional distress”.
Prince Andrew has dismissed all allegations and in a November 2019 “car crash” BBC interview tried to defend his friendship with the late tycoon Jeffrey Epstein. The Prince denied Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s claims during the interview, saying that he had “no recollection” of ever meeting the woman and suggesting that an existing photo showing the two of them together might have been “doctored”.
The embattled royal was soon forced to permanently resign from all his public roles. Convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died in a New York jail cell in 2019 after being charged with multiple child sex offences. His death was officially ruled a suicide.