Prince Andrew ‘only has bad options’: Royal’s lawyers in crisis talks as Virginia Roberts vows to fight for ‘justice’ in US court battle this autumn after accusing him of having sex with her when she was 17
Prince Andrew was facing the biggest gamble of his life after a judge in the US unequivocally rejected a bid to have his sex abuse case thrown out of court.
Last night, the royal’s lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic were locked in crisis talks after their motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by Virginia Roberts was ‘denied in all respects’, meaning the case is now heading towards an unedifying trial this autumn.
The duke’s team now have a stark choice, legal experts said. They can either take the risk to press ahead and attempt to clear his name by going in front of a jury, which means Andrew would face the humiliation of having to give public testimony against lurid allegations of rape and sexual assault on oath.
Or he could try to persuade Miss Roberts to accept a multi-million pound settlement in order to avoid further damaging the reputation of the monarchy – but have the stain of the proceedings remain with him forever. However, her New York attorney David Boies last night indicated that his client was determined to go to trial, saying: ‘She wants to achieve justice.’
Last night, Prince Andrew’s lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic were locked in crisis talks after their motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by Virginia Roberts (pictured middle) was ‘denied in all respects’, meaning the case is now heading towards an unedifying trial this autumn
One former US federal prosecutor said: ‘This is a very, very bad day for Prince Andrew.’
Mitchell Epner told Sky News: ‘There are only bad options in front of him and he has to decide which of these bad options is his best bad option.’
The pressure for Andrew to settle out of court and spare the Queen the ignominy of a sordid public trial was growing last night as he was warned he was in ‘the last chance saloon with the towels over the taps’.
Miss Roberts alleges she was forced to have sex with Andrew on three occasions in 2001, when she was 17, and he knew she was a trafficking victim.
She says she was offered up to the prince and other wealthy and powerful friends of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. Andrew strongly denies the claims.
Yesterday, New York judge Lewis Caplan dismissed the duke’s application to have the case thrown out at an early stage. Andrew’s legal team had attempted to persuade the judge that Miss Roberts – bringing the case under her married name of Giuffre – had waived her right to sue any other ‘potential defendants’ when she agreed a £370,000 ($500,000) pay-off with Epstein in 2009.
They believed the wording of the agreement, and a reference in her original lawsuit to being sexually exploited by ‘royalty’, meant that the prince was protected from litigation.
Although his judgement ran to 44 pages, the judge said his task was a simple one, ‘to determine whether there are two or more reasonable interpretations’ of the Epstein deal.
When he found the wording was ‘ambiguous’, and so open to challenge, he said it was for a jury, and not him, to decide on its meaning. But he added that, in his opinion, the agreement ‘cannot be said’ to have ‘clearly and unambiguously’ been intended to benefit the duke.
The judge made no finding on the allegations against Andrew.
Miss Roberts alleges she was offered up to the prince and other wealthy and powerful friends of paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. Andrew strongly denies the claims
His decision means the proceedings move quickly to ‘discovery’, the unveiling of witnesses and key evidence. It also means the prince is now set to be put through an uncomfortable grilling by Miss Roberts’ attorneys, under oath and on video, about all aspects of his private life.
Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer representing nine of Epstein’s victims, warned that her legal team would be entitled to ‘ask any question they wanted to’.
Is he ready for the great inquisitor?
Prince Andrew is now set to be grilled by Virginia Roberts’s ‘peerless’ lawyer.
David Boies, her 80-year-old New York attorney, is seen as the ‘greatest deposition-taker’ in modern American justice – when witnesses are interviewed under oath.
His services, for the princely sum of $2,000 (£1,460) an hour, are highly sought after.
He led the prosecution of Microsoft by the US government that saw the computing giant briefly split up. It is expected he will fly to the UK with members of his team to interview Andrew under oath. Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner described him as ‘peerless’.
Mr Boies said last night: ‘Virginia is obviously very pleased with the court’s decision. It does not resolve the case on the merits, it simply rejects certain legal defences Prince Andrew was putting up to avoid a trial.’
The lawyer said: ‘The court is opening up the case for discovery which includes deposition [interview under oath] of Prince Andrew. This is bad news for not just Andrew but his whole family. Anyone who is supporting… his alibi is potentially liable for a deposition.’
Andrew could, as a British citizen, simply to refuse to participate in the case further, but a default judgement and award for damages would likely be found against him.
Defamation and reputation legal expert Mark Stephens warned last night that the duke now finds himself ‘in the last chance saloon with the towels over the taps’.
He said: ‘He’s got to settle. He’s got to get out. Or he’s a dead man walking. Judge Lewis Kaplan has thrown this judicial decision like a bomb at the heart of the Royal Family.’
Royal insiders told the Mail Buckingham Palace has no choice but to permanently cut Prince Andrew ‘adrift’. They predicted the Queen will have to bar her son from official public appearances such as her Platinum Jubilee.
And they said that if Andrew ‘didn’t do the decent thing’ and hand back his remaining charitable and military roles, then he should now be forced to. Insiders also suggested that a ‘humble’ public acknowledgement that he would no longer seek any kind of role in national life would ‘not go amiss’.
There was no immediate reaction from Andrew’s spokesman or legal team last night.
RICHARD KAY: Can Prince Andrew find it in himself to do the right thing for the Queen – even if it trashes what’s left of his reputation?
By Richard Kay for the Daily Mail
For Prince Andrew the verdict from New York was like the slamming of a door – with the bolts being drawn behind it.
The unflinching optimism with which he had been assuring family and friends of the integrity of his case is in danger of evaporating.
In his 46-page judgement rejecting Andrew’s motion to have the lawsuit against him thrown out, Judge Lewis Kaplan has changed everything.
Suddenly it is no longer an issue of whether the prince can save himself but rather if he – or the people around him – have the common sense to realise that the main purpose now must be to prevent the reputation and good name of the monarchy being further soiled by this squalid saga.
Only a settlement with his accuser Virginia Roberts it seems, can prevent the prospect of the Queen’s favourite son facing an unseemly court-room battle in which his most private secrets risk being tastelessly exposed for every prurient observer to enjoy.
Who knows what sordid depths will be plumbed if Andrew is obliged to undergo a brutal cross-examination? It will not just be private correspondence, text messages, emails and diary entries that will be aired in public, but quite likely medical records and other intimate details.
Only a settlement with his accuser Virginia Roberts it seems, can prevent the prospect of the Queen’s favourite son (pictured together in 2019) facing an unseemly court-room battle
And it is entirely possible that there would be the added humiliation of Princess Beatrice being interrogated about her father’s principal alibi that he could not have been with Miss Roberts the night she alleges the prince had sex with her, because he had been with his then 12-year-old daughter at a school friend’s birthday party.
Although there is no guarantee that Beatrice would be called – or even be compelled to give evidence – the mere chance of that happening is enough to bring courtiers out in a cold sweat.
As the enormity of yesterday’s decision was sinking in last night, the task facing those senior figures at the top of the Royal Household was clear: insulating the Queen from the damaging fall-out.
Even the havoc of the Diana years is dwarfed by the potential risk this case threatens. While the most senior royals continue to remain apparently loyal to the Duke of York, some of those who serve the family wonder why, if he is as blameless as he vehemently insists, he has failed to convince the world of his innocence.
It is this attritional impact of the case on the monarchy that is the centre of their thoughts. This year, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, was meant to be one of celebration and joy, marking Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne and her decades of unquestioning service and duty.
Instead it will be overshadowed by Andrew and his unsavoury predicament.
Until yesterday, Andrew had just about got away with a combination of delaying and evasion, though at huge cost to his credibility.
Now his failure to get off a sex trafficking case on a technicality has shredded what little remained of his reputation. But will the royal family finally recognise this too? The ‘Andrew problem’, of course, is nothing new.
Pictured: The Duke of York was photographed with his arm around the bare waist of then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts. Ghislaine Maxwell is photographed standing in the background
When he came to the end of his Royal Navy career there was a family conference to discuss what on earth they could do with him. It was that decision to insert Andrew into the role of trade ambassador – previously held by the blameless Duke of Kent – that was the start of all his troubles.
Indeed the appointment almost coincided with him making friends with a then-unknown American financier called Jeffery Epstein.
As a much-loved second son, Andrew was indulged in a way that Prince Charles was not.
Later on, his bravery as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands war, when he flew decoy missions to keep Argentine missiles away from the British fleet, should have been enough to make him a respected figure in recent royal history.
But it is forever besmirched by the grubbiness of his links with the late paedophile Epstein and other unsuitable friendships. ‘Within the family he is seen as someone who has behaved idiotically but he is “blood”, so they will support him,’ says a figure close to the prince.
Increasingly, however, the view taking root is that there can be no rehabilitation for the Duke of York. ‘He has made so many bad decisions, from visiting Epstein after his release from prison, to giving his Newsnight interview to Emily Maitlis,’ says an aide.
Miss Roberts, 38, claims she was 17 when she slept with Andrew under orders from Epstein
‘But it’s pretty pointless going over past errors. The question is what to do next and choosing an outcome that minimises damaging the monarchy.’
Should Andrew make a settlement – with no admission of liability – with Miss Roberts (who now uses her married name Giuffre) there could be other dangers.
The first is that in the court of public opinion, a financial pay-off could be considered an admission of guilt and it would mean that his very public undertaking to clear his name would have failed.
At the same time, there is no certainty that Miss Roberts, who says she slept with Andrew three times when she was 17, would accept the duke’s offer, however generous, and may instead want her day in court.
Then there is the possibility that settling with Miss Roberts might trigger claims from other girls who may allege they too were trafficked by Epstein to have sex with him. For Andrew, this raises the nightmare prospect of years of costly litigation.
Whatever decision he takes will be a presentational quagmire for the prince. But at the moment those may be the least of his problems.
Pictured: Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Queen Elizabeth II depart the Commonwealth Service on Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey on March 11, 2019
For the 95-year-old Queen, none of the options facing her son are palatable. In the nine months since the death of Prince Philip she has leaned heavily on 61-year old Andrew. He makes regular visits to his mother in Windsor Castle, driving himself from nearby Royal Lodge.
Indeed, I understand that because of his proximity to the castle, Andrew was asked by his siblings to be his mother’s most frequent family visitor. It means decisions about his future are likely to be made by Prince Charles rather than the Queen.
But while there is no longer any question of the prince returning to royal duties he cannot be fired or dismissed from his role. ‘He is the son of the monarch and the brother of the next one, and that cannot be changed,’ says a close figure.
‘Settling the case and then explaining publicly he will have no royal future and that he is doing it for the good of the monarchy might be the only way. Of course, it doesn’t answer the question of what he will do for what could be the next 30 years of his life.’
Friends say that his focus will also be on protecting his two daughters, both newly married and with young families.
The stakes in this case have always been high but by clearing the way for the civil case to proceed, judge Kaplan has raised them to a new level. The question is: can Andrew find it in himself to do the right thing for the monarchy, while knowing whatever decision he takes will destroy the last remnants of his own reputation?
The advisers with an (even more) impossible job: Prince Andrew’s legal team include lawyer who represented Pinochet, barrister who supported Charles Bronson and right-hand man ‘Good News Gary’ – who only tells the Duke positive news
By Glen Keogh for the Daily Mail
His insistence on telling Prince Andrew only the best case scenario has earned him the nickname ‘Good News Gary’.
But even the beleaguered Duke of York’s trusted solicitor must be struggling to find positives in the bombshell ruling that a civil sex abuse case against the prince can proceed to trial.
Gary Bloxsome, from law firm Blackfords, was appointed by Andrew in January 2020 to help mastermind his response to allegations made by Virginia Roberts that she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein and forced to have sex with the Duke on at least three separate occasions.
Today’s bombshell ruling means a civil sex abuse case against Prince Andrew (pictured) can proceed to trial
Gary Bloxsome, the Duke’s trusted solicitor, whose insistence on telling Prince Andrew only the best case scenario has earned him the nickname ‘Good News Gary’
Despite a relatively unheralded CV, the 48-year-old is said to have endeared himself so closely to the Duke that he has become his ‘inner circle of one’.
The spotlight is again on Andrew’s advisers after Judge Lewis Kaplan dismissed his claim to have the civil lawsuit in New York thrown out on a technicality.
Mr Bloxsome was appointed to help with any criminal matters arising out of a separate ongoing FBI investigation into the activities of Jeffrey Epstein and any inquiries which might be conducted by Scotland Yard.
A biography says he specialises in helping ‘ultra-high-net-worth individuals in international jurisdictions’.
His most publicised cases include defending a footballer who was involved in a nightclub brawl.
The Duke was convinced to take part in the infamous Newsnight interview by his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk (pictured), his ‘gatekeeper’ since 2012, despite the reservations of his public relations adviser Jason Stein
Question were raised over the Duke’s inner circle after his disastrous 2019 Newsnight interview.
He attempted to rebut Miss Roberts’s claims by insisting he was unable to sweat – she alleged he had perspired heavily at Tramp nightclub the evening she slept with him in London in March 2001.
His other eye-raising claim was that he had been at a Pizza Express in Woking that day at a children’s party his daughter Beatrice had attended.
The Duke was convinced to take part in the interview by his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, his ‘gatekeeper’ since 2012, despite the reservations of his public relations adviser Jason Stein.
Mr Stein quit in the wake of the interview while Mrs Thirsk is said to have received a five-figure payout when the Duke was forced within days to step back from royal duties.
Stephen Ferguson, a barrister friend of the family who has acted for the London gangland boss Terry Adams as well as ‘Britain’s most violent prisoner’ Charles Bronson, is said to have helped compile a formal team to aid the Duke
Mark Gallagher, a PR guru who has worked at ITV, was brought on board to brief the press and discredit Miss Roberts’s allegations. He left shortly after
Following the disastrous interview, Stephen Ferguson, a barrister friend of the family who has acted for the London gangland boss Terry Adams as well as ‘Britain’s most violent prisoner’ Charles Bronson, is said to have helped compile a formal team to aid the Duke.
As well as Mr Bloxsome, Mark Gallagher, a PR guru who has worked at ITV, was brought on board to brief the press and discredit Miss Roberts’s allegations. He left shortly after.
The Duke’s most high-profile adviser has been extradition lawyer Clare Montgomery QC. She shot to fame in 1999 when she battled to save Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from extradition after he was accused of multiple allegations of human rights abuses.
After a period of silence on the allegations, the Duke hired California-based lawyer Andrew Brettler, who was accused of victim-blaming when he attached newspaper articles to Andrew’s response describing his accuser as a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’
The Duke’s most high-profile adviser has been extradition lawyer Clare Montgomery QC who battled to save Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from extradition after he was accused of multiple allegations of human rights abuses
A senior barrister at Matrix Chambers, Ms Montgomery is thought to command fees of around £1,000 an hour.
But since Miss Roberts launched her civil claim in New York in August last year, the Duke has been unable to rely solely on his British team.
After a period of silence on the allegations, the Duke hired California-based lawyer Andrew Brettler, who was accused of victim-blaming when he attached newspaper articles to Andrew’s response describing his accuser as a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’.
Mr Brettler, speaking on behalf of the Duke, added that Miss Roberts was solely seeking a ‘payday’ in making the claims. The allegations will finally be aired in court later this year.