Prince Andrew's Bid to Sink Epstein Lawsuit 'Too Close to Call' as Hearing Looms

Prince Andrew's lawyers are preparing to argue the Jeffrey Epstein lawsuit against him should be thrown out—and a lawyer tells Newsweek the outcome is "too close to call."

Virginia Giuffre claims the Duke of York sexually abused her when she was a 17-year-old trafficking victim of Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

However, lawyers for Queen Elizabeth II's son will today, January 4, tell a court in New York she has no right to bring the claim due in part to a past settlement agreement she signed.

Giuffre sued Epstein and in 2009 settled out of court for $500,000, agreeing not to pursue further claims against "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant."

The prince says the settlement agreement, unsealed January 3, covers her allegations against him.

However, another section of the document says "the terms of this Settlement Agreement are not intended to be used by any other person nor be admissible in any proceeding or case against or involving Jeffrey Epstein, either civil or criminal."

Amber Melville-Brown, a partner at international law firm Withers, told Newsweek: "Presumably all manner of people could have been included as a potential defendant, legitimately or illegitimately, reasonably or unreasonably, at some point since the beginning of time and in relation to anything known or unknown... so this could include Prince Andrew.

"But where the devil is usually in the detail of legal arguments, the court may be unhappy in accepting, without further specificity, that such a widely cast provision can legitimately release anyone and everyone who claims that it does or could refer to them.

"The outcome is too close to call."

Prince Andrew says he has no recollection of meeting Giuffre, despite a photograph appearing to show him with his arm around her waist at Maxwell's London townhouse in 2001, on the night she says she was made to have sex with him.

Melville-Brown added that Andrew's reputation could be in ruins even if he succeeds in getting the case thrown out on a point of law, without defeating the allegations against him.

She said: "While Prince Andrew has not been tried nor his evidence tested in any court, in the court of public opinion his reputational ship was already torpedoed by his association with Epstein, and all but sunk on Maxwell's conviction.

"Extracting him from the court proceedings may require titanic efforts by Prince Andrew's legal team, but even if this historic settlement agreement releases him from current liability, it may not be enough in the court of public opinion to raise his reputation from the depths to which it has already sunk.

"Prince Andrew's unequivocal denials have been widely publicized, but in the eyes of many only vindication from a court after a forensic examination of relevant evidence would be likely to wash away the odor that being associated with Epstein and now Maxwell could bring about."

The language used in the settlement agreement has raised eyebrows in some quarters over its broad scope, releasing potential future defendants "from the beginning of the world to the day of this release."

The text also suggests it covers "State or Federal, cause and causes of action (common law or statutory), suits, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, variances, trespasses, damages, judgments, executions, claims, and demands whatsoever in law or in equity for compensatory or punitive damages."

Joshua Rozenberg, a UK attorney and legal commentator, wrote in a blog post: "The settlement agreement signed in 2009 by Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts) and Jeffrey Epstein is written in the broadest imaginable language. Either that, or Epstein's lawyers were being paid by the word."

Nick Goldstone, an attorney with international law firm Ince, told the Daily Mail the release referenced any claim Giuffre "ever had or now have," meaning it could not apply to a case not yet filed.

He said: "Any future claim that may arise is not caught by this settlement agreement. It ... doesn't give the prince a get out of jail free card."

However, Mark Stephens, a lawyer for Howard Kennedy, told Sky News: "On the face of it, it looks like there is a release here for Prince Andrew.

"I think this is one of Prince Andrew's better days in court. I think Virginia's lawyers will be quite worried by what the terms of the agreement say. This is probably his best chance of getting out [of this case] but I suspect not before an appeal."

Prince Andrew and Accuser Virginia Giuffre
Prince Andrew, seen at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2019, is being sued by Virginia Giuffre, seen at a New York press conference in 2019. Andrew is attempting to get the Jeffrey Epstein-related case against him thrown out. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews