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Prince Andrew suffers setback in attempt to avoid trial of Epstein’s accuser

LONDON – The British High Court on Wednesday agreed to intervene in a sexual assault trial against Prince Andrew, paving the way for him to respond to a complaint in the United States that he sexually abused a minor while he was the guest of Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, denied the allegations, and his US lawyer argued Monday that the lawsuit, brought by Virginia Giuffre, was “without merit, unsustainable and potentially illegal.” The lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, also argued that the legal documents were not properly served on his client in Britain.

The High Court, which said it was responding to information provided by Ms Giuffre’s lawyers, agreed to serve the documents on Andrew if both parties could not find a way to do so. Andrew visited the Queen at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, complicating the process.

The allegations against Andrew, 61, known as the Duke of York, led to his exile from his official duties and cast a shadow over the royal family. Royal observers said the family was bracing for damaging disclosures both in the Giuffre trial and in an upcoming trial of Mr Epstein’s longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Mr Epstein, a sex offender and prominent financier, committed suicide in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking.

Lawyers for the prince in Britain have not commented on the High Court ruling and Mr Brettler did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Ms Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, said the trial is likely to proceed faster and it was inevitable that Andrew would have to respond to Ms Giuffre’s request in New York.

“I don’t think any other delaying tactics will help him,” Mr Boies said in an interview, adding that even if the prince managed to delay the case for a month or two, it would not help. not and would only focus more. attention to the subject.

“Refusing to accept service, dodging service, hiding in the palace just makes it look bad,” Boies said. “I kind of don’t understand what playbook they’re using.”

In her trial, Ms Giuffre, 38, claimed Andrew sexually assaulted her at Mr. Epstein’s mansion in New York City and on Mr. Epstein’s private island of Little St. James in the Virgin Islands American. Ms Giuffre also said in the lawsuit that Andrew, along with Mr Epstein and Ms Maxwell, forced her to have sex with the prince at Ms Maxwell’s home in London.

Mr Epstein, 66, who was arrested in July 2019, was found hanging dead a month later in his Manhattan jail cell; the death was deemed a suicide. Federal prosecutors accused him of recruiting dozens of underage girls to perform sex acts with him at his Manhattan mansion and Palm Beach estate, and paying them hundreds of dollars in cash by the following.

Ms Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020, is due to stand trial in November for helping Mr Epstein recruit, treat and sexually assault underage girls. In one case, she was charged with sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl.

Andrew has not been charged with any crime.

Mr Brettler, the prince’s lawyer based in the United States, argued before a federal judge in Manhattan on Monday that his client had not been properly served with legal documents in Britain and that Ms Giuffre’s trial could be invalid anyway under an earlier confidential settlement they said she made with Jeffrey Epstein.

“We have serious concerns about the merits of this lawsuit,” Brettler told Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Manhattan Federal District Court.

Judge Kaplan, however, said there was “a fairly high degree of certainty that it can be served sooner or later” and suggested the parties get to the bottom of the matter.

Mark Landler reported from London and Benjamin Weiser from New York. Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.