Prince Andrew was last night accused of a ‘tone-deaf’ defence in his legal battle with Virginia Roberts after his lawyers suggested she may have ‘false memories’ of her encounters with him.
In a scathing response to the duke’s demand for Miss Roberts’s mental health records, her lawyer David Boies said: ‘She wouldn’t misremember sexual abuse by a prince of England.’
The claim about memory issues was made by Andrew in legal filings over the weekend in the case brought against him by Miss Roberts at a court in New York.
Virginia Roberts photographed with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell in early 2001. Miss Roberts’ lawyer used picture of her with Andrew to attack his defence
She claims she had sex with Andrew three times when she was 17 in 2001 while under the control of Jeffrey Epstein, the late paedophile who was friends with the duke. Andrew has vehemently denied her allegations.
His lawyers have asked to interview Miss Roberts’s psychologist, Dr Judith Lightfoot, about all their sessions, any prescriptions that were issued and the ‘theory of false memories’.
Ghislaine Maxwell used a ‘false memory expert’ during her trial for trafficking and recruiting underage girls for Epstein, but was found guilty on five of six counts.
Mr Boies told the Daily Mail: ‘This is exactly what Maxwell tried. It didn’t end well. People may misremember a lot of things, but they don’t misremember sexual abuse by a prince of England.
‘In addition, Prince Andrew needs to say that all the other people who saw them together also have “false memories”.’
Referring to the notorious photo of Andrew with Miss Roberts in 2001 in London, Mr Boies added: ‘And how does a “false memory” create a photograph?’
The filings from Andrew’s US lawyer, Andrew Brettler, requested help from the Australian government to question Dr Lightfoot.
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Miss Roberts, now a 38-year-old mother-of-three, currently lives in Australia and goes by her married name, Virginia Giuffre.
The legal filing stated: ‘Defendant contends that plaintiff may suffer from false memories, as evidenced by the fact that her claims regarding her time with Epstein and the circumstances under which defendant allegedly assaulted her have repeatedly changed over the years.’
A source close to the duke told the Sunday Times that focusing on false memories was from the ‘Maxwell playbook’. The tactics of Andrew’s legal team have also triggered a ‘victim blaming’ row.
Brad Edwards, a Florida lawyer who represents dozens of Epstein victims, called the strategy ‘so tone-deaf that it basically amounts to litigation suicide’.
He said: ‘Taking another play out of the Epstein/Maxwell book and attacking Virginia is probably the only thing he can do to look worse. I’d say his defence can’t get worse, but last time I thought that he went on TV and gave what amounted to the most embarrassingly stupid interview of all time.’
Spencer Kuvin, a Florida lawyer who represents several Epstein victims, said attacking a victim’s memory was a ‘horrible’ defence.
Miss Roberts holding a photo of herself at 16 years old, when she says Jeffrey Epstein began abusing her sexually
He said: ‘It’s a classic “re-abuse” of the victim and an attempt to implicitly embarrass the victim in an attempt to intimidate them and hope the embarrassment and public shaming will make them drop their claims.’
Attorney Gloria Allred, who also represents numerous Epstein victims, said: ‘The prince is entitled to take the deposition of Virginia’s therapist for the purpose of determining emotional distress. That is not uncommon.
‘The court may have to determine her questions, eg: do they go over the line. It’s OK to ask the therapist about treatment, if she suffered problems to ascertain if she suffered emotional distress, and if her distress is caused by other issues.
‘If there are questions which are not appropriate that may have to be decided by the court.
‘Prince Andrew claims he can’t remember even meeting her. If he has a therapist she could take the deposition of his therapist if he has one.
‘Is Andrew’s memory of not recollecting meeting her, is that a false memory out of self-interest?
‘He may have – maybe not a false memory – but he may have a selective memory that remembers certain facts but not others.’
The case is moving ahead after Judge Lewis Kaplan last week rejected a request by Andrew to dismiss it.
Afterwards, the Queen stripped Andrew of all his military patronages and the use of the style His Royal Highness, effectively isolating him from the family.
With a trial tentatively set for September, Andrew could settle the case but will reportedly have to pay as much as £10million.
The duke’s team have also asked to interview Miss Roberts’s husband Robert under oath.
A source said: ‘Mrs Giuffre put her mental health at issue by suing for emotional distress damages.
‘The duke’s legal team are perfectly entitled to test her claims, determine her damages, if any, and see what she told her therapist or not.’