by Nicolas REVISE
Britain’s Prince Andrew is seeking a jury trial to clear his name in the sexual assault civil complaint he is fighting in New York, and which has already left him in disgrace and forced him to withdraw from royal duties, his lawyers announced Wednesday.
“Prince Andrew hereby demands a trial by jury on all causes of action asserted in the complaint,” his attorney wrote in a motion filed at a Manhattan federal court.
His accuser, Victoria Giuffre, has said she had sex with the prince when she was 17 and a minor under US law after meeting him through the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in prison two years ago while awaiting trial for sex crimes.
The prince has not been criminally charged and has denied the allegations.
Earlier this month Andrew was stripped of his honorary military titles and charitable roles after Judge Lewis Kaplan denied his plea to dismiss Giuffre’s case, making a civil trial in New York more likely.
There is still the possibility that the two parties could reach a financial settlement outside of court — though Giuffre’s New York lawyer, David Bowies, told AFP Wednesday: “We look forward to confronting Prince Andrew with his denials and attempts to blame Ms Giuffre for her own abuse at his deposition and trial.”
Giuffre, who is now 38, alleges that Andrew sexually assaulted her at the London home of socialite and Epstein friend Ghislaine Maxwell after a night out dancing in March 2001.
She sued the prince last year for unspecified damages, alleging that she was trafficked to him by Epstein and Maxwell.
Last month Maxwell was convicted of recruiting and grooming young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein, exposing a murky world of sex trafficking among the rich and powerful.
The motion filed on Wednesday, which contested each point in Giuffre’s complaint, reiterated that “Prince Andrew denies that he was a co-conspirator of Epstein or that Epstein trafficked girls to him.”
– Legal filings –
As well as the London allegations, Giuffre also says Andrew assaulted her at Epstein’s home in New York, and on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Lawyers for Andrew and Giuffre named the first witnesses they hope to grill in the lawsuit in mid-January.
Andrew’s attorneys said in a filing that they were seeking testimony from Judith Lightfoot, Giuffre’s psychologist in her adopted home of Australia.
Lawyer Melissa Lerner said that the prince’s legal team want to quiz Lightfoot about what was discussed during her counseling sessions with Giuffre.
The prince’s lawyers argue that Giuffre “may suffer from false memories” and want to ask Lightfoot about the “theory of false memories,” Lerner wrote in a formal “letter of request” submitted to Kaplan that would compel testimony in Australia.
In a separate filing, Giuffre’s lawyers told judge Kaplan that they wanted to question two witnesses based in Britain, including Shukri Walker, who claims to have seen Andrew at the nightclub in London with a young girl around the time of the alleged assault.
Kaplan said earlier this month that he expected a civil trial would come “between September and December” 2022.
According to lawyers in New York, Andrew would first have to give a sworn statement to a lawyer, likely in Britain, and respond to questions from the plaintiff’s American lawyers.
The answers to those questions would be submitted as evidence to the jury, which would then decide on any financial compensation.
Experts say the prince will likely have to appear in person at some point or risk being tried in absentia, which could look bad for him.
Giuffre’s civil complaint cannot automatically turn into a criminal proceedings, though nothing prevents US prosecutors from pursuing charges in the future if they believe Andrew has committed a crime.
Andrew, the second son of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, withdrew from public life as a royal in 2019 after a widely ridiculed BBC interview where he sought to vindicate himself of the accusation.
In other signs of social ostracism since, Andrew last week deactivated his social media accounts and the York Racecourse in northern England has announced it is renaming an event called The Duke of York Stakes — even though this refers to an earlier bearer of the title. — Agence France-Presse