Prince Andrew’s lawyer asks to keep 2009 legal agreement sealed


Attorney says the deal can protect the prince against a lawsuit that claims that he assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was 17

Prince Andrew’s lawyer has asked a New York judge to keep sealed a 2009 legal agreement that he says can protect the prince against a lawsuit’s claims that he sexually assaulted an American woman when she was under 18.

The request was made in court papers in Manhattan federal court, where the US district judge Lewis A Kaplan is presiding over an August lawsuit filed on behalf of Virginia Giuffre. The lawsuit said the prince abused her on multiple occasions in 2001 when she was 17 and a minor under US law.

Attorney Andrew Brettler, representing Andrew, said he is preparing written arguments to ask that the lawsuit be dismissed and wants to include under seal an agreement which he contends bars the lawsuit against Andrew. Brettler has called the lawsuit “baseless”.

He also requested to redact any portions of his arguments that reveal information in the agreement.

Brettler said neither the prince nor Giuffre contend that the release agreement must remain sealed, but they wanted to ask that it stay secret because it is subject to a protective order from another judge presiding over a federal civil action in New York.

TimelineShow

In the early 90s, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, met investment banker and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Their relationship was initially romantic, but it evolved into something more akin to Maxwell being a confidante and personal assistant. 

Prince Andrew was reportedly introduced to Epstein through their mutual friend Maxwell in 1999, and Epstein reportedly visited the Queen’s private retreat in Aberdeenshire.

Some have suggested the introduction was made earlier. A 2011 letter to the Times of London from the prince’s then private secretary, Alastair Watson, suggests Andrew and Epstein knew each other from the early 90s.

Andrew, Maxwell and Epstein are seen together at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Later that year, Epstein and Maxwell attend a joint birthday party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen.

Andrew and Epstein holiday together and are pictured on a yacht in Phuket, Thailand, surrounded by topless women. The Times of London reported the prince’s holiday was paid for by Epstein.

In the same year, Virginia Giuffre, then 17, claims to have had sex with Andrew in Maxwell’s home in Belgravia, London. Giuffre, whose surname was Roberts at the time of the alleged incidents, says she slept with Andrew twice more, at Epstein’s New York home and at an “orgy” on his private island in the Caribbean.

Epstein is jailed for 18 months by a Florida state court after pleading guilty to prostituting minors.

Soon after his release, Epstein is visited by Andrew in New York. The pair are photographed together in Central Park. Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on 6 December, that appears to show Andrew inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion waving goodbye to a woman from behind a door.

Andrew quits his role as UK trade envoy following a furore over the Central Park photos.

Allegations that Andrew had sex with Giuffre emerge in court documents in Florida related to Epstein. The papers say she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent under Florida law. Buckingham Palace denies the allegations. The claims against Andrew are later struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s ruling.

Andrew is accused of sexual impropriety by a second alleged Epstein victim, Johanna Sjoberg. She claims he touched her breast at the billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace says the allegations are 'categorically untrue'.

Epstein is found dead in his jail cell after being re-arrested and charged with sex trafficking. A medical examiner says the death was a suicide.

A pilot on Epstein’s private jet later that month claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Giuffre.

Andrew takes part in a disastrous BBC TV interview during which he claims he could not have had sex with Giuffre because he was at home after a visit to Pizza Express in Woking, and that her description of his dancing with her beforehand could not be true because he was unable to sweat, and that he had "no recollection of ever meeting this lady". After several days of negative reaction, Andrew announces he is to step back from public duties 'for the foreseeable future'.

US prosecutor Geoffrey Berman gives a public statement suggesting there has been 'zero cooperation' with the investigation from Andrew.

After Berman again claims the prince has 'completely shut the door' on cooperating with the US investigation in March, lawyers for Andrew insist he has repeatedly offered to cooperate and accuse US prosecutors of misleading the public and breaching confidentiality.

Maxwell, who has seldom been seen in public in recent years, is arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein. Unsealed testimony from a 2015 civil case reveal a series of claims about her role in Epstein sex-trafficking ring, including allegations that she trained underage girls as sex slaves. She faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted in a trial now slated to start in November 2021.

US officials confirm that Prince Andrew has received court papers relating to a sexual assault lawsuit from Giuffre, seeking damages. Her lawyers had earlier said the duke had officially been served with the papers, but his legal team had disputed the claim. Two weeks later, a court in New York grant the royal’s lawyers permission to see the confidential settlement agreement between Giuffre and Epstein.

The Metropolitan police in London say they are taking no further action after a review of the allegations that Prince Andrew assaulted Giuffre. In August, the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, had said “no one is above the law” and that she had “asked my team to have another look at the material”.

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The agreement was reached between Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead at age 66 in his cell in 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial at a New York federal jail. His death was ruled a suicide.

Brettler said the agreement “releases Prince Andrew and others from any purported liability arising from the claims Ms Giuffre asserted against Prince Andrew here”.

A pretrial hearing pertaining to the lawsuit is scheduled for next week.

In late 2019, Andrew told the BBC that he never had sex with Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”

Earlier this month, British police announced that they won’t take any action against the prince after conducting a review prompted by Giuffre’s claims. They also said no action would result from allegations that Epstein’s alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, trafficked, groomed and abused women and girls in the UK.

ProfileShow

Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender and financier who died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. He had previously served 13 months in jail after being convicted in 2008 of procuring an underage girl for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute. A medical examiner declared Epstein's death a suicide.

His death came after unsealed documents in New York revealed the extent of his abuse of young women at his home in Palm Beach, New York and the Virgin Islands. An earlier attempt to prosecute him on similar charges had collapsed when authorities granted him an unusually generous deal to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida.

Epstein made his name at the investment bank Bear Stearns before opening his own firm in 1982, managing money for clients with wealth in excess of $1bn. The business came with an intensive social schedule. Epstein positioned himself as a party figure in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and courted the rich, famous and powerful across America and the world.

Epstein’s circle of friends and acquaintances has included Donald Trump; Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; Leslie Wexner, founder of the company that owns the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand; and many other prominent names in law, entertainment and politics.

In July 2020, his long-term confidante and personal assistant Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein's sex crimes.

Photograph: New York State Sex Offender Registry
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Maxwell, a British socialite and Epstein’s onetime girlfriend, goes to trial in November in New York on sex trafficking charges. She has pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they choose to come forward publicly, as Giuffre has done.