New Yorkers love a big trial.
From Joan Collins, who withstood a claim by her publisher over an “unpublishable” manuscript, to the Leona Helmsley lawsuit “Only the little people pay taxes”, to a long line of swindlers, swindlers, celebrity divorces and mafia take-ups, every scandal-scattered case becomes part of the lore of the dirty jungle of the metropolis.
Failing an interim settlement, it looks like the Duke of York is joining a long list of high profile defendants. And, with the prospect of a trial of a member of the British royal family, it’s a case that will go down in the city’s history.
Prince Andrew’s civil case does not carry the risk of jail time. But in a city obsessed with money, power and prestige, a famous prince in the dock, facing further losses from everyone after being forced to step down from his royal duties, could be a feast of jurisprudence. controversial at the end of the summer for a city desperate for pandemic distraction.
The prospect of a jury trial follows the prince’s attorney’s decision on Wednesday to file legal papers strongly resisting the sexual abuse claims made against him by his accuser, Virginia Giuffre. In the papers, Andrew’s legal team denied the allegations and later sought to blame Giuffre for being partly responsible for his abuse. The move has been called “cruel” and “inappropriate” by legal experts.
Giuffre claims she had sex with the prince when she was 17 and a minor under US law. She says they were introduced by the late, disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in prison while awaiting trial for sex crimes, and convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
The response to Giuffre’s complaint denied all of the allegations and questioned the validity of his lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. He also demanded a jury trial – although, as a defendant, it’s not up to Andrew to ask for it. To many experts, this seemed largely trivial, with the exception of two of the eleven entries marked Affirmative Defense.
In one, titled Damages brought by others, his lawyers wrote: “Assuming, without admitting, that Giuffre suffered injury or damage, Giuffre and/or others, who are not Prince Andrew , contributed in whole or in part to the alleged damage.”
In the other, titled Consent, they wrote, “Assuming, without admitting, that Giuffre suffered the injuries or damages alleged in the complaint, Giuffre’s claims are precluded by the doctrine of consent.”
Sex abuse lawyers and former sex crimes prosecutors say both statements are surprisingly tone deaf, both in terms of public relations and whether those defense claims go before a New York jury. The prince effectively argues that Giuffre, a victim of the Epstein-Maxwell conspiracy to traffic minors, consented to sex while being trafficked and when he was under the age of majority .
The first statement – Damages brought by others – is a ‘cruel person’s response and an outrage because Andrew did not have to assert this as a claim,’ former sex crimes prosecutor Wendy said. Murphy, Professor of Sexual Violence Law at New England Law | Boston.
“To say that she was acting on her own and getting raped by a man with so much more power is…a dangerous thing to do. This is going to cause huge negative publicity for the prince, as it should be, and if you ask a jury to blame a child, he is going to get back at you,” Murphy added.
Lawyers for the victims agreed that the prince was trying to blame the victim. “Prince Andrew has denied ever meeting Ms Giuffre and denied ever having sexual contact. Now in his response in court he still denies it, but he says incredibly that if the acts took place they were consensual,” said Eric Baum of Eisenberg & Baum.
The question of how a 17-year-old could consent to systematic sex trafficking baffles Murphy, who points out that under sex trafficking laws, consent is illegal as a matter of public policy. “A human being can no more consent to trafficking than he can consent to slavery,” she said.
Murphy argued that the Duke’s affirmative defense of ‘consent’ – while technically legal under assault and battery laws – is ‘inappropriate… when you know, and the allegations are, it turns out was a systematic trafficking industry, an illegal enterprise that was extraordinarily well-established and just preposterous in terms of how they solicited and selected vulnerable girls.
In a statement to NBC News on Wednesday, Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, responded to the filing: “Prince Andrew continues his playbook by denying any knowledge or information about the allegations despite photographic evidence and third-party testimony at the opposite effect. He also continues his pattern of trying to blame the victim for his abuse.
Legal experts have also expressed the view that the prince’s legal strategy does not preclude a settlement with a statement of liability, as Boies has implied that would be part of his client’s terms. But Giuffre’s legal team has yet to prove that the alleged touching was offensive and not consensual.
“She has to prove it was non-consensual touching, and Andrew could win by saying it was consensual — and he can do that at trial,” Murphy said. “What he doesn’t have to do is assert it as an affirmative defense. It’s a politically insane thing for a lawyer to do in a case like this where the public is well aware it’s about trafficking, not about an 18 year old boy having sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. ”
All in all, if a trial takes place in New York, it seems almost certain to join the list of the city’s most shocking scandals: an elite list of bold names no one wants to be on.