A US judge has accused Prince Andrew’s lawyer of trying to stall a sexual assault lawsuit and has given his opponents an extra week to serve legal papers.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 38, claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York three times when she was 17.
She says this was arranged by his former friend and paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in a New York jail cell in 2019 while awaiting sex-trafficking charges.
The Duke vehemently denies the allegations against him. His lawyer Andrew Brettler branded the case against his client as ‘baseless’ over the phone during a 30-minute pre-trial hearing.
He told a federal court in New York last night that the case was ‘non-viable and potentially unlawful’.
The Hollywood lawyer said Ms Giuffre had entered into a ‘settled agreement’ in 2009, ‘releasing the Duke, 61, and others from any and all potential liability’.
He said Andrew’s team have ‘significant concerns about the propriety of this lawsuit’.
Mr Brettler added that Andrew’s team are speaking with the UK’s High Court to establish if papers have been served.
But Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, said they had already been served ‘in several ways’, including directly delivering them to the Duke’s last-known address.
They say a copy of the summons was left with police at the gate of Windsor Royal Lodge on August 27.
In court documents filed on Friday, Ms Giuffre’s lawyers stated there was a first attempt to serve the papers on the Duke on August 26, when an agent went to Windsor Great Park.
They state that a Metropolitan Police officer, who was the head of security, told the agent officers were not able to accept service of any court process, or let anyone trying to serve legal papers on to the property.
The agent returned the next day and was told the court process could be left with the police officer at the main gate ‘and that this matter would then be forwarded on to the legal team’.
Mr Boies added: ‘We believe we have complied with the service requirement and we filed proof of service last Friday.’
But Andrew’s team say this wasn’t in line with correct procedure as the papers should have been served through a British court official.
Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered a week-long delay on proceedings, allowing Ms Giuffre’s legal team more time to serve the papers.
Warning Andrew’s legal team to stop wasting time, he said: ‘You have a pretty high degree of certainty that he can be served sooner than later.
‘Let’s cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance.’
He added that regardless of any intervention by the High Court, the case against Andrew ‘will be litigated’ in the US.
Mr Brettler was apparently appointed at the last moment after Ms Giuffre’s legal team accused Andrew’s lawyers of having ‘stonewalled’ their attempts to get them to engage with the case.
The attorney has carved out a successful career defending allegations arising from the #MeToo movement.
The alleged settlement agreement cited by Mr Brettler is currently sealed under the order of a different judge, the court heard.
Mr Boies said it was ‘inconsistent’ to be making discovery requests for documents when the case still hinges on whether or not the Duke has been properly served notice of the proceedings, and whether the US courts have jurisdiction over the case.
He added that if the Duke does choose to engage with proceedings and make a formal request for documents, Ms Giuffre’s legal team would respond ‘very promptly’.
Mr Brettler said that he believed the document ‘absolves our client from any and all liability’, adding other defendants had avoided similar proceedings by relying on its existence.
Judge Kaplan listed the case for a further hearing in-person next month.
He recommended both sides discuss the service of the case ahead of the next hearing in order to get to the ‘substance’ of the claim.
The judge added: ‘I can see a lot of legal fees being spent and time being expended and delay, which ultimately may not be productive for anyone.’
Ms Giuffre is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
The Duke does not face the prospect of an extradition hearing as this only applies to criminal charges and not civil cases.
Andrew has stepped back from public duties amid the fallout from his relationship with Epstein.
It came after a ‘car crash’ Newsnight interview in 2019, which saw him attempt to draw a line under his relationship with Epstein.
During the programme he denied claims that he slept with Ms Giuffre on three separate occasions.
He said: ‘I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.’
According to The Daily Mail, he was last seen arriving at the Queen’s Scottish retreat of Balmoral Castle in August and was thought to have been accompanied by his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York.
Lawyers for Ms Giuffre filed the civil suit against the duke citing allegations of battery by sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Under the claim for battery, the lawsuit says the Duke’s actions ‘constitute sexual offences as defined in (New York law) including but not limited to sexual misconduct as defined (as) rape in the third degree, rape in the first degree’.
It also claims Andrew’s conduct amounted to ‘forcible touching, sexual abuse in the third degree, and sexual abuse in the first degree’.
The lawsuit says Ms Giuffre has suffered ‘extreme emotional distress, humiliation, fear, psychological trauma, loss of dignity and self-esteem, and invasion of her privacy’.
Prince Andrew’s legal team has declined to comment any further.
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