Prince Andrew Sex Abuse Case to Include Deposition As His Options Dwindle
- Prince Andrew is set to take a deposition before the sex abuse case against him heads to trial.
- While he’s denied Virginia Giuffre’s sexual assault allegations, the case’s discovery process will cause headaches.
- The prince has a narrow window to settle Giuffre’s lawsuit, but an agreement isn’t guaranteed.
Prince Andrew is having a bad week.
On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s lawsuit against the prince will move forward. Giuffre wants to take the Duke of York to trial on allegations that he sexually abused her on multiple occasions as part of a sex-trafficking scheme run by Jeffrey Epstein.
On Thursday, things got worse: The royal family announced that Prince Andrew would be stripped of military titles and would defend himself “as a private citizen.”
In statements to the media, the royal has strenuously denied wrongdoing and even said he has no memory of ever meeting Giuffre.
But US District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s decision means that Prince Andrew will have to defend himself in a deposition, which comes with the consequence of possible criminal charges if he lies under oath.
The duke already agreed to take a deposition in London, David Boies, one of Giuffre’s attorneys, told the journalist Vicky Ward. Boies also said Giuffre would take a deposition in Australia, where she lives.
Depositions, which are typically video-recorded, are just one element of the larger discovery process in civil lawsuits. Over the next few months, lawyers for Prince Andrew and Giuffre will hand over text messages, phone call logs, calendars, and any other evidence that might be used in a trial to determine whether the Duke of York sexually abused a teenager while hanging out at homes belonging to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and convicted sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
Kaplan has made clear that he wants to hold a trial sometime in fall 2022. Prince Andrew could easily hole up in his room in London until it’s over, but Sarah Krissoff, a defense lawyer at Day Pitney and a former federal prosecutor, said the royal not showing up to his own trial would be a big mistake.
“If this ends up going to the trial, he’ll need to be seated at the table and part of this process,” Krissoff told Insider, adding: “For the lawyers to most effectively represent their client, the collaboration between the lawyer and a client has to be constant.”
Nightclub or pizza party?
Giuffre has maintained her allegations against Prince Andrew for years, in depositions and media appearances, before she finally sued him in August 2021.
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, she alleged the royal forced her to have sex with him against her will in the early 2000s. The alleged abuse started when she was 17 and took place at Epstein’s homes in New York and the US Virgin Islands, as well as Maxwell’s house in London, according to the lawsuit.
Prince Andrew previously denied Giuffre’s allegations at length in a 2019 BBC News interview. He rejected one of Giuffre’s claims, that the two danced in London’s Tramp nightclub, on particularly outlandish grounds. The prince said he remembered bringing his daughter, Princess Beatrice, to a pizza party at the time, and said that a medical condition stemming from a traumatic experience during the Balkans War made him physically incapable of sweating — despite many photos showing Prince Andrew sweating in nightclubs.
Those specific denials and the legal filings addressing them offer a window into the material Giuffre will try to get during discovery. Her attorneys are likely to demand medical records, as well as obtain as much information as they can about Prince Andrew’s long friendship with Epstein, who died in jail in 2019.
According to Krissoff, the financial records Giuffre’s lawyers can obtain will help pin down where Prince Andrew was on certain dates. For example, credit card records could prove whether he swiped his card at a nightclub or a pizza parlor the night of March 10, 2001, when Giuffre claims they danced together before the prince sexually abused her. Travel records could help determine whether the duke was in New York at the time of the alleged abuse.
Boies has said he wants to depose Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as and the duke’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. The precise scope of discovery demands between the parties, including who they can depose, will be subject to negotiation and court approval.
Giuffre and Prince Andrew have until July 14 to meet Kaplan’s deadline for depositions. That gives the duke several months to explore another approach: settling.
Prince Andrew’s best option is settling
While Kaplan’s ruling was a major setback for Prince Andrew, it didn’t erase all his options.
The judge rejected Prince Andrew’s argument that a 2009 settlement agreement between Giuffre and Epstein shielded the royal from civil liability. Kaplan basically threw his hands up in the air, writing that the language in the agreement’s release was too ambiguous to say whether it applied to the duke.
Prince Andrew still can try to gather more detail about the settlement release, possibly by convincing the judge to summon the lawyers who drafted it. His lawyers could also appeal Kaplan’s ruling. Neither action would definitively stop the case from hurtling toward a trial, and legal challenges wouldn’t pause the discovery process, either.
As every moment of the discovery process threatens to reveal more embarrassing details about his life, Prince Andrew’s best option is settling.
The deposition transcript and other evidence Giuffre’s lawyers gather wouldn’t be made public until a trial. And even at that point, Prince Andrew’s lawyers could object to entering them into the public record. But Boies and his legal partner Sigrid McCawley could still slip out details in other legal filings and court appearances in the interim. Prince Andrew is represented by the media-savvy lawyer Andrew Brettler, who is well aware of the dynamics at play (Brettler did not respond to a request for comment for this story).
“All of the counsel in this case are particularly vocal,” Krissoff said. “They’re very happy to speak with the press and to present the case to the public. To the extent that there is information that they’re able to share, they certainly may choose to share that strategically.”
But would Giuffre accept a settlement? In an interview with BBC News on Wednesday night, Boies said that Prince Andrew’s team rejected a “mediation” before Giuffre filed her lawsuit. He also said his client wasn’t just interested in the royal’s money. But he left the door open to some mutual agreement.
“I think it’s very important to Virginia Giuffre that this matter be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates other victims,” he said. “I don’t think she has a firm view at this point as to what a solution would be.”