A crucial legal document the Duke of York’s lawyer believes will stop the civil sex lawsuit against the royal will remain secret when arguments are made for the case to be thrown out.
US District Judge Lewis A Kaplan ruled the settlement agreement should not be opened after Andrew’s attorney asked for the document to remain sealed.
Andrew B Brettler, who represents the duke, had argued at a previous hearing that Virginia Giuffre – who is suing the Queen’s son for alleged sexual assault – had entered into a “settlement agreement” that would end her current lawsuit.
In court documents filed this week, Mr Brettler said he wanted to include a copy of the agreement when he files arguments explaining why he thinks the judge should end the case.
He added the agreement “releases Prince Andrew and others from any purported liability arising from the claims Ms Giuffre asserted against Prince Andrew here”.
The settlement agreement was reached between Ms Giuffre and Andrew’s former friend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Ms Giuffre is suing the Queen’s son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager. She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
She claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.
Andrew has denied all the allegations.
Epstein was found dead in his cell in 2019 while awaiting a sex trafficking trial at a New York federal jail. His death was ruled a suicide.
In his Wednesday order, Judge Kaplan noted Epstein’s estate did not contend that the settlement agreement must remain sealed.
The judge seemed to urge the parties to ask his counterpart in the other case – Loretta A Preska – to unseal the document, saying Judge Preska “might well view with favour an application … to permit the public disclosure of the Settlement Agreement”.
“But that is for her to say,” he wrote, ruling that the agreement can be filed under seal and remain so unless Judge Preska and Judge Kaplan decide otherwise.
Depositions in the civil case against the duke must be completed by mid-July of next year, Judge Kaplan ruled earlier this week.
While not specified in the court papers, both Andrew and his accuser are expected to answer questions under oath but it remains to be seen if the Queen’s son will engage with the US court system.