A lawsuit accusing Prince Andrew of sexually abusing an underage girl can move forward, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, despite the royal’s attempts to argue that a years-old settlement involving Jeffrey Epstein protected him.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan sets the stage for Prince Andrew, who’s been largely exiled from the public spotlight in light of his association with the late Epstein, to face trial.
Virginia Giuffre has long said that Epstein, the late financier and convicted sex offender, trafficked her out to Prince Andrew of Britain for sex.
In her original complaint, filed in New York, Giuffre said she was forced into sexual encounters with Andrew in London, New York City, and Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, all while Giuffre was younger than 18. Giuffre’s lawsuit also alleges that Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite recently convicted of five federal charges related to sex trafficking, helped facilitate those encounters.
Giuffre had previously sued Epstein, resulting in a 2009 settlement that remained secret up until this year. That settlement included a clause that supposedly protected anyone who could be a “potential defendant” from future lawsuits. Prince Andrew’s legal team said that settlement thus shielded the royal.
Kaplan rejected Prince Andrew’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit.
“The meaning of this pivotal phrase in the contract is not by any means ‘unambiguous and free of conflicting inferences,’” Kaplan wrote in a 44-page ruling. “The parties have articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language. The agreement therefore is ambiguous. Accordingly, the determination of the release language in the 2009 agreement must await further proceedings.”
Prince Andrew has tried to cool the firestorm surrounding his relationship with Epstein for years, to relatively little effect. In a disastrous interview in 2019—shortly after Epstein died in a federal jail cell while awaiting sex trafficking charges—Prince Andrew rebutted Giuffre’s claims that he sweated profusely by arguing, bizarrely, that a medical issue prevented him from sweating.
“I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falklands War when I was shot at,” he told a BBC Newsnight interviewer. “It was almost impossible for me to sweat.”
After that interview, Prince Andrew announced that he was stepping back from public life.