Prince Andrew now faces a choice between settling Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s sex abuse lawsuit or facing a potentially ruinous court battle in which he is likely to be be questioned about his sexual history.
A New York judge has sensationally ruled that the Queen’s second son can be tried over allegations he sexually assaulted Miss Roberts when she was 17 — claims which Andrew has categorically denied.
Experts believe that Andrew, who earned the nickname ‘Playboy Prince’ as a bachelor, will want to reach an out-of-court, and potentially multimillion-pound, settlement with his accuser, or face having his private life be put in the spotlight in a blockbuster trial in nine months.
However, there have been suggestions that Miss Roberts, who claims she was trafficked by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and forced to have sex with Epstein and his associates while she was a minor under US law, may not be prepared to accept a deal.
Witnesses including Sarah Ferguson and Princess Beatrice could be asked to testify, Miss Roberts’s lawyer David Boies has claimed.
It is likely the duke will be asked to give evidence under oath as part of the discovery process in what is known as a deposition. However, he cannot be forced to appear in New York to defend himself due to the case being a civil suit in a different legal jurisdiction.
Andrew could simply refuse to acknowledge its existence — but the court would then pass a judgement in his absence, risking even more damage to his already-shattered reputation.
This is how the next steps could play out:
Judge Lewis A Kaplan’s decision is a huge blow for Andrew, who now faces having to testify in open court
First, what did the judge decide?
Judge Kaplan rejected a motion by Andrew’s lawyer to have Miss Roberts’s sex abuse lawsuit thrown out.
The duke’s team unsuccessfully argued that Miss Roberts had waived her right to pursue the duke by signing a confidential settlement with Epstein.
The settlement, made public earlier this month, detailed how Miss Roberts had received a $500,000 payout in 2009 and agreed to ‘release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharged’ Epstein and ‘any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant’.
Andrew B Brettler, the duke’s lawyer, had argued his client was a ‘potential defendant’ as defined by the agreement and so the case ‘should be dismissed’.
But in his decision, Judge Kaplan said the agreement ‘cannot be said’ to benefit Andrew. He stressed that his ruling does not express any view as to the truth of Miss Roberts’s allegations.
What happens next?
As it stands, the case on the path to a trial, and discovery (the ‘formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial’) is already underway.
Under Judge Kaplan’s timeline, both parties must disclose their expert witnesses by May 13, complete discovery on July 14 and file a join pre-trial proposal by July 28 — which would include whether either side wants a jury trial.
There is a strong chance these deadlines will be altered.
What are the duke’s legal option?
Aside from proceeding to fight the case in court, the duke has a number of legal options available to him, including:
Appealing today’s ruling: Andrew could file a motion of reconsideration to Judge Kaplan, asking him to reconsider his ruling. Or he could go straight to the second circuit court of appeals, where it would be heard by a panel of judges.
If they also reject his motion, he could ask a second full second circuit to consider it. Another option would be to go straight to the Supreme Court, which would then decide whether or not to hear the case.
Filing for a dismissal: He could seek to have the case dismissed by arguing that it cannot be heard in a US federal court because both he and Miss Roberts — who is an American citizen but lives in Australia — are based abroad.
Settlement: Most American court cases end in a financial settlement agreed out of court before the case reaches trial. She could seek to extract an apology or an admission of wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but Andrew has always strenuously denied the allegations.
Default: Andrew ignores the court summons, meaning the court will rule in his absence.
Virginia Giuffre (seen with her attorney David Boies) accuses the royal of sexually assaulting her when she was 17, allegations he has always strenuously denied
Will Andrew try to settle?
It is likely the duke will be asked to give evidence under oath as part of the discovery process in what is known as a deposition.
Unless there are any other motions to dismiss the case, the duke would have to reach a settlement with Ms Giuffre.
This is usually a financial settlement where both sides go back and forth until a figure is reached.
Experts have argued that Andrew is a ‘dead man walking’ and will want to strike a deal with Miss Roberts.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens said Wednesday’s ruling that Andrew is to face a civil sexual assault trial has ‘thrown a bomb’ into the heart of the royal family and threatens to spark a constitutional crisis.
He told the BBC a crisis of this scale was unprecedented for the royal family.
‘Prince Andrew has nowhere to go. He’s effectively a dead man walking as far as the royal family is concerned,’ he said. ‘But the one thing he can do is to accept the responsibility, accept the blame, accept that he has to fall on his sword for the sake of the wider royal family.’
The duke denies the allegations made against him.
What are the chances of the duke seeking to settle?
Insiders say the option ‘remains on the table’.
Andrew’s team are understood to acknowledge the ‘attritional impact’ the case is having on the Royal Family, particularly as the Queen is due to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee this June with the threat of a scandalous sex trial hanging over her.
‘Obviously, this is a US case involving US lawyers and involving a US civil lawsuit,’ one source said. ‘In reality, 99 per cent of US civil litigations are settled out of court. A settlement would always be an option on the table, as that’s where the vast majority end up. There is also the wider pressure and attritional impact to consider.’
Sources with knowledge of the case have previously told the Mail that no discussions have taken place yet about whether the Queen’s son could — or should — agree a settlement without liability being admitted. But neither had it been ruled out as an option, they said.
Buckingham Palace has refused to comment, describing it as an ‘ongoing legal matter’.
On the one hand agreeing a settlement would prevent Andrew going through the humiliating experience of being interviewed by Miss Roberts’s lawyers, who will be able to question him about everything from his sexual partners to the minutiae of his dealings with Epstein and with Maxwell, found guilty last month of sex trafficking.
They may seek answers from other family members, including his ex-wife Sarah and potentially other senior royals.
What dirty laundry could be aired in court if a settlement is not reached?
If a settlement is not reached, then the duke’s private life could effectively be put in the dock.
As a young man, the ‘Playboy Prince’ was one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and earned himself the nickname ‘Randy Andy’ after being linked to a string of beautiful women.
When a bachelor for a second time, Andrew again made headlines, having been spotted cavorting with topless women on holiday in Thailand, and attending a ‘hookers and pimps’ party with Robert Maxwell’s daughter Ghislaine in the US.
It is possible that should the lawsuit reach court, lawyers could drudge up Andrew’s sexual history and question him about everything from his sexual partners to the minutiae of his dealings with Epstein and with Maxwell, who has been convicted of sex trafficking.
Andrew also faced being grilled over his ability to sweat and his Pizza Express alibi.
During his ‘car crash’ BBC Newsnight interview in 2019, Andrew denied that he slept with Miss Roberts, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had spent the day with his daughter Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.
The same alleged sexual liaison, which Miss Roberts said began with Andrew sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp, was later branded factually wrong by the duke, who said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat.
As a result, it is possible that Andrew’s daughter Beatrice could testify in any US trial. It is also possible that Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah ‘Fergie’ Ferguson — who herself has generated some of the most humiliating royal scandals of modern times — could give evidence.
But a settlement would clearly do little to help the 61-year-old prince clear his name, and it is unlikely to help him achieve his long-held ambition of returning to public life in some form.
The Duke of York was photographed with his arm around the bare waist of then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts. In the background, Ghislaine Maxwell. Roberts claims she was forced to have sex with the royal three times
Could Andrew be forced to appear in court?
Legal experts say Andrew could not be forcibly extradited due to it being a civil case.
Edward Grange, extradition expert and partner at Corker Binning, told MailOnline: ‘In short, extradition can not take place for as long as the case remains within the civil jurisdiction.
‘Prince Andrew would only be at peril of extradition if he were charged with a criminal offence in the USA that carries a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months or more.
‘Even then, whilst an extradition request could be made to the UK, no doubt careful thought would be given as to whether such steps should be taken given that it would be a very bold move for prosecutors to take because of the undoubted diplomatic headache it could cause for the two jurisdictions.’
Mr Grange added: ‘If he were to be charged with a criminal offence in the US and if the US were to seek his extradition, his British nationality would not result in a dismissal of the request as Britain extradites its own citizens.’
Could Meghan, Charles or Fergie be asked to testify?
David Boies, Miss Roberts’s lawyer, has said he plans to make a formal request through the UK court system to speak to two witnesses.
This raised speculation he wants to speak to Sarah, Beatrice, or one of the duke’s police protection officers. He has also speculated that Charles and Meghan Markle could also be called as witnesses if the case reaches court.
Mr Boies said that the Duchess of Sussex was a potential witness because she lives in the US and is subject to the jurisdiction of American courts. However, there is no evidence Meghan was a ‘close associate’ of Andrew or has any information about the claims against him.
The rest of the Royal Family are likely to be highly reluctant to give evidence in the case and there is no way for Miss Roberts’s lawyers to force them.
If Andrew loses the civil case could he face a criminal suit?
Defence attorney Julie Rendelman played down the prospect of any criminal charges being filed over Andrew’s case.
She told The Guardian: ‘I believe that [Maxwell] is the final piece in terms of criminal charges involving Epstein. I’m pretty confident prosecutors spent this time evaluating every piece of evidence to see if there is anything else.
‘I think they realised the strongest case is Ghislaine, and that’s what they went for.’