Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre sues Prince Andrew for alleged sexual abuse
Lawyers for Virginia Giuffre, who claims Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was 17.
In documents filed to the U.S. District Court in Manhattan Monday, Giuffre’s lawyers said they sent a physical copy of the lawsuit to Andrew’s Los Angeles-based lawyer Andrew Brettler through FedEx, which was received Monday morning, attached receipts show. Giuffre’s lawyers said they also sent a digital copy to Brettler’s e-mail.
The court previously granted Giuffre’s alternative service pursuant request, finding that “service on (Andrew’s) United States counsel is sufficient to notify Defendant of the claims against him in this matter,” court documents read.
Court documents also show legal papers delivered to the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday.
USA TODAY reached out to Brettler and Giuffre’s legal team for comment.
One of Giuffre’s lawyers, David Boies, told CNN on Tuesday that “we are pleased that the service issue is now behind us and that we can proceed to a resolution of Ms. Giuffre’s claims.”
There’s been much ado about proper service
Last week, an English high court authority declared that the Duke of York was properly served with the sex-abuse lawsuit under international law when the lawsuit papers were left at his residence, Royal Lodge on the Windsor Castle estate, on Aug. 27.
In a letter to the New York lawyers for Giuffre, Barbara Fontaine, a judge known as the “Senior Master of the Queen’s Bench Division,” one of the oldest judicial offices in England, declared that she was satisfied that the Americans had met the requirements of international treaty standards for process service in a civil matter.
Fontaine acknowledged that Andrew’s legal team at the London firm Blackfords is entitled to challenge her decision, as they have done since the lawsuit papers were left at his residence, Royal Lodge on the Windsor Castle estate, on Aug. 27.
Andrew wasn’t there; instead a police officer on duty at the gate to the property took the paperwork. The paperwork also was sent to the prince’s lawyers by mail and email.
If they still object, Fontaine called on Andrew’s lawyers to agree to another method of service that meets the Hague Convention treaty standards so as to avoid further wrangling over the issue.
Sigrid McCawley, one of the lead lawyers on Giuffre’s legal team, told USA TODAY last week that the back-and-forth happening was “all about delay.”
“It’s not a game of hide-and-seek behind palace walls,” McCawley said. “There is no question (Andrew) has had notice from any number of sources. It’s time to stop playing games. This is all about delay, and it smacks of gamesmanship.”
Prince Andrew’s legal strategy
This may sound like a lot of legal argle-bargle over very little – did he get the papers or didn’t he? – but it’s a reflection of the complexities of international law: Rules must be followed to the letter, and worldwide media coverage does not constitute proper service under the law.
It’s also critical to one of the strategies Andrew’s British and American lawyers are using to fend off the lawsuit filed last month in Manhattan federal court by Giuffre. She accuses the Duke of York, 61, of rape and sexual assault, claiming she was sex-trafficked to him at age 17 by Andrew’s former friend, the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and that the prince knew it at the time.
Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II, vehemently rejects all her accusations.
Giuffre, 38, has been publicly making these allegations since January 2015; if this case goes to a trial, it would be the first time she would tell her story to an American jury and potentially collect millions in damages if she proves her case.
Andrew’s lawyers hope to ensure the lawsuit fails, on the technical issue of process service if need be. If that doesn’t work, they want to get the lawsuit quickly dismissed to ensure he never has to give evidence under oath for an American jury.
As a last resort, the prince can ignore the lawsuit, as he has done up to now, which could lead to a default judgment in New York that would be difficult if not impossible to enforce in England, say lawyers who have been following the case.
Will a settlement surface that helps Prince Andrew?
A federal judge in New York slapped down Andrew’s legal team’s effort to get access to a 12-year-old settlement agreement in a separate lawsuit that the lawyers think could fend off the sex-abuse lawsuit against him.
“The request to permit disclosure of the settlement agreement is denied,” ordered U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, although she noted that Andrew may yet seek to unseal it for “valid reasons” as part of discovery in the sex-abuse lawsuit in the future.
But the Duke of York, who has yet to acknowledge that he’s been properly served with the paperwork for the lawsuit, doesn’t want the matter to get that far, not even as far as pre-trial discovery.
David Boies, the New York celebrity lawyer who represents Giuffre, has publicly and repeatedly warned Andrew that he can’t ignore the court process.
McCawley, working with Boies, says the Giuffre legal team is confident a default judgment could be enforced in the U.K. or in the U.S. against royal assets.
“If there is a default judgment, there would be a separate enforcement proceeding, and there are a number of sources we would be able to go after for collection,” McCawley said. “It’s a good problem for us to have.”
So far, Andrew is not winning on the process service matter. On Sept. 13, during a first hearing on the case before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, the judge noted that service is a “technicality” issue, that “sooner or later” the prince would be properly served under English and international law, thus allowing the case to move more quickly towards “substance” issues.
That includes the issue of whether Giuffre’s lawsuit is valid because of a 2009 settlement agreement she signed with Epstein. That agreement, sealed since it was signed, potentially releases Andrew from any liability for the sexual abuse accusations she has made against him, his lawyers argue.
Giuffre has already dropped similar claims against another famous man she accused, Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who tried to get that agreement unsealed to deliver to Andrew’s lawyers to help defend him.
On Sept. 15, Giuffre’s lawyers filed a letter to Judge Preska arguing against unsealing the settlement, saying there is no evidence it was intended to include Andrew.
A day later, Judge Preska, who is presiding over the lawsuit between Giuffre and Dershowitz, told the famed lawyer he has no legal standing to intervene.
“There is no basis for Mr. Dershowitz’s requesting a document subject to the protective order for use in another case to which he is not a party,” Preska wrote, adding an unsubtle admonishment. “To the Court’s knowledge, Mr. Dershowitz has not been commissioned as a roving ethics monitor.”
In response, Dershowitz told USA TODAY that the “real question” is why Giuffre and her lawyers want to keep the settlement details under wraps.
“The public has a right to see the release; in my view it precludes her from suing Prince Andrew, just as it precluded her from suing me,” Dershowitz said. “The question is, why the secrets? The truth ought to come out.”
Kaplan has set Oct. 13 for the next hearing on the process service matter.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson