Prince Andrew may well end up making a financial settlement with Virginia Giuffre, legal experts have told The Daily Beast, after lawyers for the prince participated at the 11th hour in the American legal process this week.
Any such settlement would, of course, likely be couched in carefully negotiated verbiage specifying that Andrew did not admit to anything untoward. There would be no official admission of guilt. Individuals would be left to draw their own conclusions as to what such a payment would signify.
Giuffre’s legal team did not respond to a request by The Daily Beast for comment. However that team, led by attorney David Boies, has clearly cast the civil lawsuit as a moral crusade, saying in court filings, for example, that it is “long past the time for [Andrew] to be held to account,” suggesting that any settlement that explicitly exonerated Andrew might be a bitter pill to swallow.
However, Boies also recently told one interviewer that Giuffre had “tried every way she can to resolve this short of litigation,” implying she might be open to a deal.
A spokesperson for Prince Andrew declined to comment on the likelihood of Andrew settling with Giuffre, and his official position remains that he did not have sex with Giuffre. He has said he cannot recall ever meeting her, despite the well publicized photograph of him with his arm around her bare midriff in Ghislaine Maxwell’s London flat. Andrew implied in his notorious BBC interview that the photo was fake.
David Hooper, the star British libel lawyer and author of Reputations Under Fire told The Daily Beast: “Ultimately I suspect Andrew will end up writing out a check to get on with his life.”
Hooper’s surmise follows a dramatic week in the civil case being brought against Andrew by Giuffre, who claims she was raped three times by Andrew as a teen while being trafficked around the world by his friend Jeffrey Epstein.
Less than 24 hours before Prince Andrew’s legal team dialed into a New York courtroom to participate in a pre-trial hearing for the case, his people were insisting they would do no such thing.
The Times, for example, confidently reported in its Monday print edition, presumably on the basis of briefings from Andrew’s side: “The duke will not be represented at the hearing. His U.K. lawyers oppose participating on the grounds that doing so would amount to accepting U.S. jurisdiction in the case.”
By that afternoon, however, the strategy of completely ignoring the case and thereby implicitly refuting its legitimacy lay in tatters. Because when the dial-in hearing, overseen by Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US district court for the Southern District of New York got underway, up popped none other than a representative for the prince: Andrew B. Brettler, the lawyer best known for representing the allegedly cannibalistically minded actor Armie Hammer and the director Bryan Singer.
Intriguingly, ahead of the hearing, a man and woman with English accents who had apparently not thought to press their mute buttons were reportedly heard speaking in the background. Speculation has ensued as to their identity.
Brettler’s key arguments, it should be noted, were aimed at refuting the legitimacy of the case. Andrew can make such arguments before a court case begins without being adjudged to have submitted to its jurisdiction.
He attempted to paint the suit as “baseless, nonviable, and potentially unlawful.” Interestingly, Brettler didn’t get very far. His claims that Andrew had not been properly served legal documents, for example, were pointedly shut down by the judge who said there was “a pretty high degree of certainty that he (Andrew) can be served sooner than later,” and demanded, “Let’s cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance.”
Indeed, the claim that he wasn’t properly served now appears to have been fully closed off to Andrew after the British High Court agreed to serve papers on Andrew.
A spokeperson for England’s Judicial Office told The Daily Beast: “The lawyers acting for Ms Giuffre have now provided further information to the High Court, and the High Court has accepted the request for service under the Hague Service Convention. The legal process has not yet been served but the High Court will now take steps to serve under the Convention unless service is arranged by agreement between the parties.”
Another speculative argument, that Giuffre’s prior settlement with Jeffrey Epstein might release the duke “from any and all potential liability,” also received short shrift from Kaplan, who scolded Brettler for “making this a lot more complicated than it really is.”
That’s a neat summary of Andrew’s strategy throughout this tawdry saga, of course, but its endpoint could be very simple indeed: Andrew cutting a check.
“I think it’s incredibly difficult for him to totally ignore the American jurisdiction,” says Hooper, “It doesn’t look good if he waves two fingers at them. At the same time he will probably not want to risk the humiliation of going into the witness box and arguing, ‘I’ve never had sex with her,’ so they will probably get a default judgement. The damages could be a seven-figure sum.
“If he doesn’t make some kind of settlement it’s going to haunt him. A judgement would be very hard to enforce, but the litigation would continue to hang over him. For example, every time he goes to Royal Ascot, there might be process servers jumping out of the bushes.
“A civil suit is entirely about money. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up being advised eventually to pay her off. Not immediately, but eventually.”
Andrew certainly appears unperturbed by the case. Indeed, his insouciance was such that he went ahead with a shooting weekend at his mother’s Scottish estate, Balmoral, last weekend, as if, for all the world, not a thing was amiss.
All that changed on Monday evening, and more will be revealed at the next hearing date, set for Oct. 13.
Andrew’s bullish mood has now reportedly changed. Quoting an unnamed source, the U.K. Mirror reported Thursday night: “He’s not been his usual blasé self, acting like everything is in hand. The issue has suddenly become very pressing and there is a distinct tension in the air. There has been a dramatic shift in mood and the reality that this could not only go on for many months, if not years, as well as costing potentially millions of pounds is very real.”
“The stark reality is that the Duke and his team need to face the fact they need to address this,” another unnamed source told the paper.
Another source told told The Sun that being at Balmoral may offer Andrew at least temporary legal protection, the queen’s summer holiday retreat being within Scottish, rather than English, jurisdiction. “Andy and his legal team must have known Scotland would be out of reach when he scarpered up there,” the source said.
Frances Gibb, the retired legal editor of The Times, who continues to be a highly respected contributor to diverse British publications, told The Daily Beast that she also believed there was a “strong possibility” that Andrew could simply opt to pre-emptively settle the case.
“They probably won’t be able to enforce a default judgment against Prince Andrew, because the courts in the UK would say, ‘He did not engage with the case so we can’t enforce it,’ so the issue of how many millions of dollars the judgment is for might not be particularly relevant. What is relevant is that he will have, for the rest of his life, the embarrassment, the shame and the humiliation of having a judgment against him for sexual abuse,” she said.
Gibb argues that if the case ever gets to the stage of a judgment, however, Andrew will have mismanaged matters.
Gibb says: “The best outcome for Andrew is that the judge agrees there is no case. But if it gets the go-ahead, then the second best outcome is that Andrew, through gritted teeth, settles the case before it progresses. If he settles it, that is the end of it.”
Gibb says that the engagement of his legal team with the process on Monday shows that his side have “thought the better of sticking two fingers up to the legal process… he is cornered now.”
Mark Stephens, an attorney at leading international law firm Howard Kennedy who has long followed the legal travails of the royals, is of a contrary view, however.
He believes that fundamentally nothing has changed with Monday’s court hearing. He told The Daily Beast: “Andrew has got himself into a position where he is condemned by his silence. The only position that is worse for him is that he has to give evidence in public, and has to describe what he did with Virginia Giuffre under oath. So the best strategy for him and his lawyers is to stonewall and delay for as long as possible.
“The worst that could then happen is a default judgement against him. Virginia Giuffre will get her vindication but the money won’t be enforceable, not least because he will argue he has immunity as a lineal heir of the sovereign. That will take four or five years to come to the supreme court. David Boies says he can’t hide behind palace walls but in fact that is exactly what he can do.”
Does Stephens not believe Andrew will settle?
“Settling involves an implicit admission of guilt. He can’t settle. The least worst option for Andrew is just to stay away from America.”