On Monday 3 January 2022 the Jeffrey Epstein papers were unsealed and made public in a ruling by United States judges. The sealed financial settlement of $500,000 was made in 2009 between the disgraced financier and Ms Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts), a sex trafficking victim of Epstein who has launched a civil lawsuit in the US against Prince Andrew for sexual assault. Ms Giuffre claims she was forced to have sex with the Prince at Ms Maxwell’s London home when she was a 17-year-old minor, but Prince Andrew denies the accusation and insists he was at home on the evening of the alleged assault. He claims that he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to a Pizza Express for a birthday meal in Woking at around 4 or 5 o’clock that afternoon and as his loyal ex-wife Sarah Ferguson was away from the family home that day, the rule they always had was that he would spend the evening at home with their two girls, although as yet he is unable to prove any of this. Nor, despite photographic evidence to the contrary, does the Prince recall having ever met Ms Giuffre.
Ms Giuffre alleges that Prince Andrew abused her in 2001 on 3 separate occasions when was 17 years old and known as Virginia Roberts. She claims the first time was in Ghislaine Maxwell’s London property, the second time in Jeffrey Epstein’s townhouse in Manhattan and once on his Little Saint James Island estate (also known as Epstein Island). She filed her lawsuit against Prince Andrew in August 2021 in the Southern District Court of New York under the New York State’s Child Victims Act.
The Prince’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, described Ms Giuffre’s case as “baseless”, also stating that it was “ambiguous at best and unintelligible at worst”. Last weekend he also attempted to have the case thrown out, arguing that Ms Giuffre, who is a US citizen, now lives in Australia with her husband and children but evidence showed that she is domiciled in Colorado and is registered to vote there, and New York Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected a dismissal. In any case, Australia is enduring draconian restrictions under governmental coronavirus policy many people are not even permitted to cross state borders, let alone fly in and out of the country unless for specific, authorized reasons so even if Ms Giuffre had fully intended to return to Colorado at some point she may have been unable to unless granted special dispensation.
Back in 2019 Prince Andrew appeared in an ill-advised, ‘car-crash’ television interview with the BBC journalist Emily Maitlis in an effort to clear his name, in which in a BBC article earlier this week she said the answers he gave to her on camera in response to the allegations made against him by Virginia Giuffre may have seemed “astonishing”, maybe even “jaw dropping in places” but that in some strange way she had been expecting them. Before the cameras rolled the two had talked through the things he wanted to say part of her job was to create the space for him to speak and explain on the record his own account of what had or had not occurred, and in no way was the interview intended to “catch him out”. She said that having watched back at the interview and the questions she asked that day she was taken back at their directness but she had simply gone with the flow as it was the only opportunity to hear the Prince’s side of the story. During the interview Prince Andrew denied he had ever slept with Ms Giuffre; he was in Woking at a Pizza Express with his daughter Beatrice in the late afternoon of the day of the alleged offence. He also denied Ms Giuffre’s claim that he was sweating profusely at Tramp nightclub whilst dancing with her just hours before the alleged abuse took place, owing to an “overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War” which had left him unable to perspire. However, it has since been reported that Prince Andrew’s lawyers have so far been unable to provide any documentary evidence that he is unable to sweat, despite his strongest denial of the allegations made against him.
Discussing the case over dinner with a friend the other day, they pointed out to me that often the Royals tend to possess a certain naivety, relying on aides and Palace officials for advice on day-to-day as well as more important issues, though ultimately the Royal member will make the final decision and can choose to avoid any counselling given. For example, with this in mind and despite his haughty and entitled attitude Prince Andrew may simply possess a poor filter when it comes to friends and associates and perhaps he had been manipulated (and flattered) by his dazzlingly charismatic, well-connected and worldly friend Ms Maxwell, who played him like a fiddle and coaxed him into her web of deceit with her lively spirit and warm-hearted generosity, however disingenuous she actually was; that in his naivety he was hoodwinked or ‘framed’ into posing for a staged photograph with his accuser (and Ms Maxwell smiling in the background) that might prove useful in the future and implicate him in her deeds should her means demand it. If this argument is a valid one, then it might be argued that the same goes for Ms Giuffre herself, however there is nothing to suggest she has not spoken her honest truths and surely if there had been a shred of doubt regarding her story she would not have been awarded compensation from the Epstein settlement fund. One might also argue that even assuming Prince Andrew DID visit Epstein Island, it is possible he stayed at a guest house on the estate and not at the main house and therefore was blissfully unaware of what was going on, but again the burden of proof would lie with he and his legal team and would they be in a position to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?
On Tuesday morning following the unsealing of the Epstein settlement, a hearing took place between Judge Kaplan and the legal representatives for the Plaintiff and the Defendant. Andrew Brettler on behalf of Prince Andrew argued that Ms Giuffre had accepted a $500,000 financial settlement from Jeffrey Epstein and that one of the conditions contained therein stipulated that she not pursue a case against any associate of Epstein, therefore shielding Price Andrew from her new lawsuit. He argued that Jeffrey Epstein would never have wanted his name dragged back into a lawsuit where Ms Giuffre might later sue Prince Andrew and others and then subpoena Epstein to attest. However, Judge Kaplan highlighted the very broad scope of the settlement including the language applied to “other potential defendants” which left it open to interpretation and pushed back against Brettler’s argument.
Neither was Judge Kaplan interested in Brettler’s demands that Ms Giuffre share further details about the alleged events that had taken place and told him point blank that “it’s not going to happen”. He did say that Prince Andrew had the right to dissect Virginia Giuffre’s allegations when both parties soon start sharing evidence.
Matters became very awkward at one point when Judge Kaplan quoted a specific sentence from Giuffre’s lawsuit. This line mentioned Prince Andrew sexually abusing the Plaintiff, Ms Giuffre, at Maxwell’s London home on one occasion during which encounter Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew forced the Plaintiff to engage in sexual intercourse with Prince Andrew “against her will”. Furthermore, the Judge said that he must “assume the truth of the allegation” at this stage of the process. Mr Brettler retorted that the allegation was too vague, but Judge Kaplan struck back: “it was sexual intercourse. Involuntary sexual intercourse. There isn’t any doubt about what that means.”
David Boies, the attorney for Virginia Giuffre, said he intended to depose between 10 and 12 people including family members such as Prince Andrew’s daughter Princess Beatrice, his niece-in-law Meghan Markle, and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson among others to give evidence, but would not depose the Queen out of respect. The Prince had insisted he was enjoying a pizza with Beatrice and therefore couldn’t possibly have gone to any nightclub with Virginia, and this would need to be proved and supported by his own family; Sarah Ferguson has consistently stated that she stands by her ex-husband “one hundred percent” and that they are still “living their love story”.
After hearing both sides, Judge Kaplan said he would make a decision as soon as possible, although it is widely believed he will allow this to go to trial and had said previously that he wanted to see one happen later this year. This will probably be sometime in the autumn.
Whilst an individual is presumed innocent unless proven guilty, the tactical strategies of the Prince and his legal team to derail any lawsuit seem to do more to arouse suspicion than defend his innocence. Quite aside from the arguments raised with Judge Kaplan in order to have Ms Giuffre’s case dismissed, it was reported later last summer that Prince Andrew flitted from Royal residence to Royal residence in an attempt to avoid court papers being served upon him. According to David Boies, on 27 August 2021 the court documents were handed to an on-duty Metropolitan Police Officer at the main gates of Prince Andrew’s home in Windsor Great Park, Buckinghamshire. The law firm Blackfords, who represent the Prince in “certain UK matters” questioned whether the papers had indeed been properly served and suggested they might challenge the court’s jurisdiction in the case, according to the Prince’s rights, including on the basis of potentially defective service. However, in court documents Ms Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, considered it implausible that the Prince was unaware of the lawsuit and indeed that lawyers at Blackfords had been instructed by the Prince to evade and contest service and that they had confirmed that Prince Andrew had already had notice of the lawsuit and was weighing up his chances of success. Boies further argued that any other conclusion would be somewhat far-fetched, regardless of whether or not Blackfords confirmed service, as reliable media outlets all over the world had reported on the filing of the plaintiff’s suit, and countless articles about it had been published.
For us to get to the truth and for his own sake, Prince Andrew needs to fully cooperate and respond to the allegations made against him in an appropriate setting with the full intention of clearing his name if he has done no wrong. Surely he owes it to himself to set the record straight with the evidence required to prove his innocence once and for all. Time once spent at the centre of Royal life with a full diary of official and social engagements is now reduced to hiding behind the high walls of various of his mother’s properties and idling his days away in front of the television or helping his adoring ex-wife about the house with her charity work and with only his memories for comfort. A life so reduced is no life at all and in a way he has already created his own prison, wrapped in his self-serving cloak of humiliation and cowardice, choosing to bury his head in the sand in the hope it will all go away. On the other hand, facing the humiliation of being dragged through the Federal courts and exposed to innumerable sordid headlines, he may not feel is an option given his new desire for modesty and discretion and the fact that any trial might bring further disgrace to the Royal Family.
Daily Mirror Royal Editor Russell Myers has been reported as saying that the Palace will be nervous that any trial might overshadow the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations as she marks 70 years on the throne with a four-day weekend in June involving street parties, a gala concert at Buckingham Concert and a Jubilee Pageant, but Prince Andrew will not be allowed anywhere near the festivities and any outings.
Already aware that he would be banished from his mother’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations as well as any appearance on the Royal balcony, to add to his woes The Daily Mail reported that the Metropolitan Police is under pressure from legal experts to question the Prince as it is learned that he and his friend Ghislaine had continued to socialize ‘for years’ despite her paedophile billionaire ex-partner Jeffrey Epstein’s conviction and was even the guest of honour at her birthday party at London’s Dorchester Hotel in December 2012. Former officers and prosecutors argue that the Met should investigate all the alleged offences committed on British soil ‘without fear or favour’. In other words, even Princes and Presidents should not be above scrutiny. The Met has maintained it continues to ‘liaise with other law enforcement agencies who lead the investigation into matters related to Jeffrey Epstein”, such as the FBI, but legal experts argue that the Met can no longer evade commencing an investigation; indeed it could be argued that it is their moral, ethical and public duty to do so. Prince Andrew has been quoted on many occasions as saying that he has offered to co-operate with the inquiry by the FBI who wanted to talk to him, but the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had been unable to make contact with him despite their best efforts.
Seemingly his consistently (and what might be regarded as) irrational and obstructive behaviour and the outcome of the Maxwell trial have put Prince Andrew further under the spotlight. On the late afternoon of Wednesday 29 December 2021 Prince Andrew’s long-time friend, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was found guilty of recruiting and grooming teenage girls for sexual encounters between 1994 and 2004 with herself and Epstein on 5 out of 6 indictments at the Federal Court House in New York before Judge Alison Nathan. The moment happened quickly and almost unexpectedly – though was, I am sure – a relief, being barely 10 minutes before the end of the session that day. Justice was finally served and the women whose lives were destroyed by years of abuse by Maxwell and her late partner-in-crime Jeffrey Epstein were vindicated. The twelve-strong jury had taken some 5 days to deliberate and due to the ongoing surge in Omicron cases, Judge Nathan had told the jury that if necessary they should reconvene each day throughout the customary new year recess until their verdicts had been reached. As each day passed and court house staff continued to deplete due to Covid, the situation was becoming increasingly risky with the strong likelihood of any juror testing positive as the days went on, which would end in a mistrial and this was the last thing Judge Nathan would have wanted. When the moment came, the press were ushered from the building and only 17 people were present to hear the verdicts. These included Judge Alison Nathan, various FBI agents, attorneys, the Defendant Ms Maxwell and a few dedicated writers who had tirelessly risen every day before dawn to stand in line for several hours in the freezing cold outside the court house to gain admittance, listened and observed intently in the court room and waited around every single day of the deliberations, sharing news and updates through their social media feeds and sub-stacks. These were mostly well-known writers and reporters: lawyer, journalist and author Lucia Osborne-Crowley; entrepreneur Jessica Reed-Kraus; and Vicky Ward journalist, bestselling author and host/reporter of the documentary “Chasing Ghislaine” – but also the Broadway and television actor, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, who took up covering trials and other subjects that interested her during the course of the pandemic and has dazzled many of us with her daily rhetorical updates, critical thinking and attention to detail throughout this landmark trial. Live streamed conversations between these four women also helped to bring the trial, and its aftermath, to life.
These writers observed that Ms Maxwell had been touchy-feely throughout the trial, dressed stylishly and sauntering into the courtroom each day smiling, kissing and hugging her family and her lawyers as though playing to an audience, note-scribbling and sketching back at the wonderfully experienced artists who had been selected to illustrate the trial in chalk pastels, these talented people who worked quickly in chalk pastels turning out 5 or 6 accurate sketches on a daily basis, until perhaps their fingers were raw and bleeding. However, whilst it might be assumed the Defendant would demonstrate some kind of human reaction to the verdicts and the prospect of a 65-year jail sentence, it was observed that she showed not a glimmer of emotion as she was led away to her holding cell; no kisses or smiles or hugs on this occasion for her siblings or her Defence team, more of an arrogant strop at the very notion that she should be found guilty as charged!
Evidently this entitled, arrogant and sociopathic woman did not expect a guilty verdicts and was confident that she would be acquitted, still believing that she was entirely innocent. How wrong she was and what terrific justice for all those women who were groomed and abused as young women and minors over a number of years, and who were represented by US Attorney Lisa Bloom, herself a former victim of abuse. Some of these women who had been abused and had already received financial out-of-court settlements from the Epstein Victim Compensation Fund took the stand under oath and were cross-examined, although Virginia Roberts Giuffre was not one of them and Prince Andrew’s name was not mentioned. However, during the course of the trial Ms Giuffre’s name was mentioned some 250 times and photos of her as a teenager were shown to the jury. Maxwell’s senior counsel Bobbi Sternheim and her colleagues including Laura Menninger attempted to pick holes and discrepancies in the women’s testimonies. For example, the $2.9m (£2.15m) that “Jane” had received from the Epstein Victim Compensation Fund was raised, together with a long-winded examination of her career as a soap actress with roles as a prostitute, cancer survivor and a woman who quashes a Mexican drug cartel, and she was accused of being “melodramatic”. Other witnesses stepped forward and partly corroborated her story, and by the time the second accuser, “Kate”, gave her evidence Prosecution were on-point with their questioning and the stories of her battles with drugs and alcohol and her reasons why she had continued to associate with Epstein well into her thirties took the wind out of the sails of any cross-examination from Sternheim. However, it was the harrowing and shocking stories of the third accuser, “Carolyn”, and the fourth, Annie Farmer, who added weight to the authenticities and similarities of the four accusers and again the Prosecution were able to ask the difficult questions before the Defence had the opportunity as the accusers were able to explain themselves in a non-hostile space.
The trial had been listed to last for up to 6 weeks, so it came as something of a surprise when the Prosecution rested its case at the end of the second week. Almost immediately stories appeared in the mainstream media that the Defence would be calling up to 35 witnesses to corroborate Maxwell’s version of events, but following a three-day recess the Defence put on a chaotic performance sometimes struggling to call any witnesses. Three potential witnesses were banned by Judge Alison Nathan from giving evidence under a pseudonym and another, a British man named Alexander Hamilton, had Covid. On behalf of the Defence Laura Menninger begged Judge Nathan for a delay so they could bring forward the 81-year-old owner of the Nag’s Head public house in London’s Belgravia, to testify whether indeed Maxwell had owned a house in 1994 where allegedly Kate’s abuse had begun, but Judge Nathan denied the request.
On day 12 and supported by Sternheim’s arm behind her back, Maxwell stood defiantly before Judge Nathan and when asked if she wished to testify, instead of the customary “yes” or “no, your honour” she replied: “Your honour, the government has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt so there is no need for me to testify.” In summing up, Maxwell’s attorneys suggested that the four accusers who had testified against Maxwell had their memories manipulated over the passage of time, therefore wrongfully implicating her in Jeffrey Epstein’s sickening crimes but the writing was on the wall.
As spectators and members of the press waited in the bitter cold outside the court house last Wednesday evening, Maxwell’s family members and her lead Defence Attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, exited the building and gave a short statement, vowing to appeal the five guilty verdicts on sex trafficking and conspiracy indictments, however they face an uphill struggle against the overwhelming evidence upon which the jury voted ‘beyond a shadow of all reasonable doubt’.
For example, the challenges by the Defence might include focusing on the anonymous witnesses that Judge Nathan did not allow to testify, as well as the ruling that prevented them from recalling two of Ms Maxwell’s accusers. For the appeal to succeed Ms Maxwell’s legal team would need to demonstrate that Judge Nathan abused her discretion or violated rules of evidence. My personal view is that given that Judge Nathan has enjoyed a long and distinguished legal career (she has served as a judge on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York since 2011 and before that was engaged in private practice, academia and government service) and was nominated to the United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in November last year by President Joe Biden, it seems highly unlikely that such challenge would bear fruit especially given that Judge Nathan was extremely mindful to seat an impartial jury, she was respectful at all times towards both sides, and Ms Maxwell received a fair trial. Furthermore, whilst there is a precedent for witnesses of sexual crimes to have their names removed, there is no precedent for the Defence to request that their witnesses testify under a pseudonym, which is probably why Judge Nathan did not allow it. The Defence might also try to argue that the jurors felt rushed in reaching their decision due to the pressures of Covid, however Judge Nathan still openly told them to take all the time they needed and the fact that they returned a not guilty verdict on one charge showed that they had examined every shred of evidence during their deliberations and even if they believed that Ms Maxwell was guilty of the second indictment, if they were not absolutely certain beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt that she was indeed guilty then they would need to return a not guilty verdict on that particular charge, which is what they did. Ms Maxwell’s attorneys might also try to question the sums awarded to the four witnesses of up to $5m and call forward trustees of the Epstein Victims Compensation Fund which has paid out nearly $125m to some 150 individuals, in an attempt to highlight any inconsistencies in their testimonies to the jury. However, even if an appeal was allowed to proceed the Defence would need to demonstrate that any violations bore any weight upon the outcome of the trial.
As Ms Maxwell whiles away her time on ‘suicide watch’ awaiting sentencing in solitary confinement ‘next to a sewer’ in her prison cell, the FBI rifle through her notorious “little black book”, their eyes scanning the identities of the 300 or so names allegedly contained therein. Aside from Prince Andrew, who else is implicated in all of this? What do they know, what role did they play in it and what other scandalous deeds are hidden from view? Why would Prince Andrew and others not want to fight to clear their names instead of flying under the radar and evading justice? Is Prince Andrew not confident of his truths, his legal team or the loved ones who continue to support him, and is he indeed guilty of misdemeanors, notwithstanding he has clearly demonstrated poor judgement of character? Who and what are Prince Andrew and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell protecting that they keep protesting their own innocence and why should either of them think that they are above the law and the deeds of others? If Ms Maxwell’s appeal falters will she finally start naming names, resigning herself to the fact that whether she tries to get her sentence reduced or face whatever fate lies ahead in jail there is no way out? Her ex-lover Jeffrey Epstein was also put on suicide watch in jail and that ended badly; thoughts of that must surely enter her mind.
If after his deliberations Judge Kaplan allows the civil lawsuit by Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s against Prince Andrew to go ahead and if the Prince does not succeed in clearing his name – or even, as is now being reported, if he seeks to cut a deal to avoid further embarrassment to the British Royal Family – what names and deeds will begin to seep like a bloodstain through the pages of that Little Black Book in the coming weeks and months? According to karmic law, what goes around comes around and in the wake of trials and tribulations, stories and testimonies, the truth always wins in the end.