Prince Andrew may not need to sweat any longer

So universal is the Giuffre-Epstein settlement agreement that the whole case could be thrown out, though it would prompt an appeal by Giuffre’s lawyers

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 05 January 2022 07:00 GMT
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U.S. judge to decide fate of Prince Andrew sex abuse case
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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What a day to be Judge Lewis Kaplan, district judge serving on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York – the man with the fates of Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Prince Andrew in his hands, and the eyes of the world upon him.

He must decide whether the text and the legal status of the settlement agreement Ms Giuffre signed with Jeffrey Epstein in 2009 means that her civil case for damages against Andrew is thrown out; or he can judge that it is irrelevant; or he can reserve judgement and order more “discovery” about the circumstances in which the text of the document was determined, and also have have more time to some to take a considered view about the legal points.

That might mean Andrew having to give some sort of statement, but that might be it. For the first time, Andrew’s lawyers would have gotten the better of the argument by demanding disclosure of the settlement agreement, and they’d have greatly increased Andrew’s chances of seeing it dismissed. His troubles would hardly be behind him, but they wouldn’t get much worse. Perhaps.

If I were the judge, I’d be in no hurry, because either way, he will find himself under vicious attack. If he did throw out the Giuffre claim, he’d be accused of allowing Prince Andrew to “get away with it”, being part of some establishment conspiracy and an enemy to the human rights of women and girls. There’d be a storm.

If he took the view that the cause of justice overrides any particular private agreement entered into by actual or potential defendants and plaintiffs in some unspecified future case, then he would effectively be trashing the whole culture of settlement agreements, non-disclosure agreements and even prenups that form such a routine part of modern legal life, especially in America. This would potentially single-handedly rewrite the civil legal system as it applies to much of employment, libel and family law. There’d be a storm. Either way there’d be appeals.

What are the chances? At the moment, they seem in Andrew’s favour, and the case will be at least delayed and it’s perfectly possible it will be thrown out. The powerful momentum behind the Giuffre claim will be lost, and the public and media will lose interest. This will suit Andrew perfectly well.

Epstein’s lawyers were certainly not negligent in the way they framed the 2009 document. Giuffre agreed to drop her civil claims against Epstein in exchange for $500,000, and freely agreed this would  "forever discharge… any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant… from all, and all manner of, action and actions of Virginia Roberts, including state or federal…” representing “a final resolution of a disputed claim and is intended to avoid litigation. The settlement agreement shall not be construed to be an admission of liability or fault by any party.”

It was also "not intended to be used by any other person, nor be admissible in any proceeding or case against or involving Jeffrey Epstein, either civil or criminal”, though this seems to have now been overridden.

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So universal is the Giuffre-Epstein settlement agreement that the whole case could indeed be thrown out, though it would prompt an appeal by Giuffre’s lawyers. More likely, it will be stalled and will drag on for many months, but sooner or later it seems as though Andrew may well live to see it closed down.

There would be other options for Giuffre, including trying to get criminal proceedings under way – they normally don’t take much notice of such private settlement agreements – but the Metropolitan Police said in October that it isn’t taking any further action in relation to the case. And of, course, the Prince has always absolutely and categorically denied the allegations which the Palace calls “false and without foundation”.

Prince Andrew may not be sweating for much longer.

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