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Will secret Epstein-Giuffre settlement end Prince Andrew’s legal woes?

Newly unsealed court papers show royal accuser was paid $500,000 in 2009 deal

Prince Andrew’s legal team is calling on a US judge to throw out the sexual assault civil lawsuit against the royal following the disclosure of a settlement between his accuser and the late Jeffrey Epstein.

The legal document was released by a New York court ahead of what the BBC described as a “critical hearing” today in the case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against the duke of York, the BBC said.

Under the terms of the 2009 deal, Guiffre was paid $500,000 (£371,000) to end her claims against billionaire paedophile Epstein and anyone connected to him who could be described as a “potential defendant”.

Why is the document important?

The 12-page document details how Giuffre agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharge” Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant” from any US legal action, including damages claims dating “from the beginning of the world”. 

Giuffre is now suing Prince Andrew for alleged sexual assaults that she claims took place when she was a minor under US law. She alleges that she was repeatedly forced to have sex with him when she was 17 after being trafficked by Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Andrew has repeatedly denied the claims.

How the settlement document is interpreted will form a “central plank” of the legal argument from the two sides in the case, said the BBC. Andrew’s lawyers have argued that although he is not mentioned by name in the agreement, he is covered by the legal document.

Giuffre alleged in her original claim against Epstein, filed in Florida in 2008, that she was “required to be sexually exploited” by his “adult male peers, including royalty”. According to Andrew’s team, “that means the duke was a potential defendant and that he was included in the 2009 agreement”, said The Times

But Giuffre’s team have insisted that the document is “irrelevant” to her claim against the duke. “The release does not mention Prince Andrew. He did not even know about it,” said David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, in a statement. “The reason we sought to have the release made public was to refute the claims being made about it by Prince Andrew’s PR campaign.”

In a previous court filing, her lawyers said that the 2009 deal was “outside the four corners” of her action against Andrew because it does not specifically cover her allegations against him.

Will the case be dismissed?

Lisa Bloom, a lawyer for other alleged victims of Epstein, told the BBC that the settlement as “incomprehensibly vague” and “one of the most bizarre” she had ever seen.

“We want contracts to clearly specify who is released from a lawsuit and who is not,” said Bloom, who predicted that US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, presiding over the civil case, would not release Andrew from the lawsuit following a video teleconference with the royal’s lawyers today.

But journalist and lawyer Lucia Osborne-Crowley suggested that the “very broad” language used in the settlement could “spell success” for the prince.

“It is very possible that the settlement agreement between Virginia Roberts and Jeffrey Epstein protects Prince Andrew,” Osborne-Crowley told The Independent. Because the settlement refers to “any third party that could be considered a ‘potential defendant’ in the Epstein lawsuit”, Andew could “be ‘forever’ shielded from any and all claims” brought by Roberts, Osborne-Crowley continued.

The deal “also specifically says that all potential defendants are protected from all lawsuits regardless of whether they are brought in federal or state court”. And “American law treats settlement agreements in civil lawsuits no differently to any other private contract”.

“So if the judge rules that Prince Andrew falls into the category of a ‘potential defendant’, it’s likely that the deal will protect him,” Osborne-Crowley concluded.

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