Daily Mail

Duke’s new lawyer hits out at sex claims in US court

- By Rebecca English and Daniel Bates

‘A highly complex issue’

LAWYERS for Prince Andrew last night branded allegation­s of rape and sexual assault made against him in a US court ‘baseless’.

In a surprise 11th-hour move, the Duke of York appointed a heavyweigh­t Hollywood lawyer who argued against the claims made by his long-time accuser Virginia Roberts in a bombshell civil case.

Andrew B. Brettler, whose clients have included a slew of celebritie­s accused of sexual misdemeano­urs, told a court in New York they did not accept the prince had been properly served with the case paperwork, after it was left with a policeman on the gate of Royal Lodge, his Windsor mansion, last month.

Last night was the first hearing in the case brought by Miss Roberts, in which she – under her married name, Giuffre – lodged a claim for damages against the prince for rape, sexual assault and battery.

She claims she was trafficked by Andrew’s former friend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with the duke three times – in New York, London and the US Virgin Islands – when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.

Andrew, 61, has refused to comment on the civil case but has always vehemently denied Miss Roberts’ claims.

The conference call with Judge Lewis Kaplan, sitting at the US District Court in Manhattan, heard Mr Brettler say he had ‘significan­t concerns about the propriety of the lawsuit’ and label the case ‘baseless, nonviable and potentiall­y unlawful’.

It was not clear if Andrew was one of several dozen listening in on the line. Mr Brettler told the court the duke’s legal team believe Miss Roberts signed away her rights to bring any future actions when she agreed a payout from Epstein in 2009.

‘There has been a settlement agreement that the plaintiff has entered into in a prior action. That releases the duke and others from any and all potential liability,’ the attorney said, although the court did not rule on the claim.

Judge Kaplan gave the parties a week to agree on service of the papers, saying he feared ‘a lot of legal fees and time being expended’ with delays ‘not productive for anyone’.

Now a 38-year-old mother of three, Miss Roberts alleges she was groomed as a schoolgirl by Epstein and his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, before being used as an underage ‘sex slave’ and loaned out to their friends, including the duke. Miss Roberts is seeking unspecifie­d damages but there is speculatio­n the sum could be in the millions. Epstein and Maxwell, who denies the allegation­s, were close friends of the Queen’s son throughout the 1990s.

Andrew even met up with Epstein after he was convicted of procuring an underage girl for sex in 2008 and registered as a sex offender.

Epstein committed suicide in jail in 2019 awaiting trial for further sex traffickin­g crimes.

As a UK citizen facing a civil case, Andrew is not legally compelled to take part, but failing to engage would risk a default judgment being made against him, including an order for damages, and could see him branded a sex abuser.

The prince stepped down from royal duties after his carcrash 2019 BBC interview over his relationsh­ip with Epstein. He is currently at Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish estate.

One legal expert said last night that the case, which was adjourned until October 13, could take years to conclude.

David Greene, a senior partner at law firm Edwin Coe, said: ‘It’s a highly complex issue.’

 ??  ?? Seeking damages: Virginia Roberts in New York
Seeking damages: Virginia Roberts in New York

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