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Prince Andrew can seek the unsealing of a 2009 settlement agreement that his lawyer says protects him from a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted a girl two decades ago, a US judge in New York said .

Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said in a written order Thursday that the prince may seek information to support arguments that the agreement between Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein dismisses her lawsuit against the prince.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at a Manhattan federal prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking. The death was ruled a suicide.

Lawyer Andrew Brettler, representing the prince, told a Manhattan federal judge on Monday that he believes the settlement agreement “relieves our client of any liability.”

Brettler spoke at the first court hearing resulting from the August trial, in which Giuffre alleged Andrew repeatedly assaulted her in 2001 when she was under 18. Andrew said the abuse never happened.

Brettler did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Giuffre’s lawyers asked another judge to rule that the prince had been properly briefed on Giuffre’s trial.

Giuffre’s lawyers have argued that they had already served Andrew properly in England, when a copy of the trial was left with a police officer guarding the prince’s house in Windsor.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled Giuffre could try another way to serve his legal papers so the prince could respond to his claims, saying a plan to deliver the trial to Andrew’s lawyer based in Los Angeles was “reasonably calculated to bring the served papers to the attention of the defendant,” regardless of whether the prince “authorized” the lawyer to accept it.

The ruling came a day after the High Court in London said it would arrange for Andrew to be served if the parties failed to come to their own arrangement.

Giuffre’s lawyers said the prince “actively avoided” formal efforts to serve Giuffre’s trial. Judge Kaplan ruled just six hours after Giuffre officially requested his intervention, saying “the service is not intended to be a game of hide and seek behind the walls of the palace.”

Lawyers noted that Brettler planned to defend himself based on the 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Epstein of a Florida state case to which Andrew was not a party.

Preska, the Manhattan judge, presided over requests to unseal large parts of the court records related to a lawsuit brought by Giuffre against Epstein’s partner, Ghislaine Maxwell in 2015.

The libel lawsuit, which alleged Maxwell subjected Giuffre to “public ridicule, contempt and disgrace” by calling her a liar, was settled and the case closed in May 2017.

The judge referred to the prince in an order dismissing attorney Alan Dershowitz’s attempt to unseal “a settlement agreement” that was designated confidential and sealed as part of the record of Giuffre’s lawsuit against Maxwell.

The judge said Dershowitz, who said he was seeking the unsealing “for a matter of professional ethics” because he believed Giuffre’s claims in the lawsuit against the prince were prohibited by the settlement, could not search the files because he was not a party to the lawsuit against Andrew.

“To the court’s knowledge, Mr. Dershowitz has not been appointed as a traveling ethics reviewer,” Preska wrote.

“The court notes, however, that the parties who have standing (…) and perhaps Prince Andrew, who was not heard (…) may seek to lift the protection order for reasons valid, ”she added.

A lawyer for Dershowitz did not immediately return a message asking for comment on Thursday.

Maxwell, 59, is awaiting trial in November and denies sex trafficking charges that she procured Epstein’s daughters for sexual abuse.

theguardian Gt