London — It’s a critical week for Britain’s Prince Andrew as he tries to avoid the fallout from the Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse scandal. Just days after the conviction of Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, a New York judge was expected on Monday to unseal a confidential agreement that Andrew’s lawyers say could shield him from a civil sexual abuse lawsuit.
The prince’s attorneys call the lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre baseless.
Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the terms of a 2009 settlement between Epstein and Roberts Giuffre to be made public by Monday. Andrew’s lawyers say that agreement shields the prince and others from lawsuits by Roberts Giuffre, and they hope the judge will take it as sufficient grounds to dismiss her suit against the royal.
The court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday over whether to throw out the suit.
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As CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports, with the prospect of a legal battle hanging over him, Prince Andrew has kept an extremely low profile.
On Christmas Day at Windsor Castle, as other members of Britain’s royal family went to church, the queen’s second son was nowhere to be seen. Tarnished by his friendship with convicted child sex offenders Epstein and Maxwell, a recent poll shows the prince is now liked by just 6% of the British public.
Andrew no longer performs royal duties. Former tabloid editor Kelvin McKenzie told CBS News that the prince has been “pushed right to the side” — essentially told by his family that he’s no longer “representing anything.”
McKenzie, the former editor of The Sun tabloid, said that if the lawsuit against Prince Andrew does go ahead, the media coverage will be a royal embarrassment.
“It will be beyond shocking,” he told Williams. “He will be slaughtered.”
Roberts Giuffre filed suit in August last year claiming sexual abuse at the hands of the British royal, saying she was trafficked to Prince Andrew for sex by Epstein and Maxwell when she was 17 years old — a minor under U.S. law.
She said last year that the prince “should be panicking. He knows he’s guilty.”
“He needs to be held accountable,” she told CBS Mornings’ co-host Gayle King in July 2020. “We need to show the world that the rich and the mighty can fall too.”
The prince denies all the accusations against him and says he has no recollection of ever even meeting Roberts Giuffre. He has never been charged with any criminal offense.
But as legal analyst Joe Tamburino explained to CBS News, in the civil suit brought by Roberts Giuffre, demanding unspecified financial damages, the standard of proof would be lower than in a criminal case.
“If she proves more than 50%, she wins. If she doesn’t prove more than 50% she loses,” Tamburino said.
If the trial goes ahead, the prince faces having to give deposition for the U.S. court, meaning he would have to give sworn testimony in relation to the allegations against him for the first time. Ghislaine Maxwell could be called as a witness, and an attorney for Roberts Giuffre has said they also want to depose Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
“Does she [Meghan] have any factual information of being part of — even briefly — the royal family, and have any information on Prince Andrew; how he acted, what he was like, where he was at certain times, so on and so forth,” said Tamburino.
It all holds the prospect of a lot more dirty royal laundry to come.
The prince brought Epstein into the heart of the royal family. The New Yorker even appeared at Andrew’s daughter’s 18th birthday costume party, alongside Maxwell and Harvey Weinstein.
The prince tried to explain his behavior in a 2019 BBC interview, during which he offered justification for staying at Epstein’s New York mansion after his friend had been imprisoned on child sex charges.
“You were staying at the house of a convicted sex offender,” the interviewer put to him.
“It was a convenient place to stay,” the prince replied.
McKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, believes that regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit brought by Roberts Giuffre, the prince’s reputation will never recover.
“If the tabloids were the jury, he’d be doing 10 years by now,” McKenzie told CBS News. “That’s the truth.”