Epstein accuser sues Prince Andrew, says he sexually assaulted her when she was 17
Prince Andrew has previously denied the allegation, saying 'it never happened'
One of Jeffrey Epstein's longtime accusers sued Prince Andrew on Monday, saying he sexually assaulted her when she was 17.
Virginia Giuffre has repeatedly made her allegations against Epstein, his onetime girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, and Andrew, but the lawsuit, filed by Giuffre's lawyers in Manhattan federal court, was the first time she has directly confronted Andrew in such a formal setting. It steps up public relations pressure on the prince, even if he remains beyond the reach of U.S. courts.
In a statement, Giuffre said the lawsuit was brought under the Child Victims Act to allege she was trafficked to him and sexually abused by him.
"I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me," she said. "The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one's life by speaking out and demanding justice.
"I did not come to this decision lightly," she said. "As a mother and a wife, my family comes first — and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates — but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down."
Allegations not proven in court
None of the allegations against Prince Andrew has been proven in court.
In late 2019, he told BBC Newsnight that he never had sex with Giuffre, saying, "It didn't happen."
He said he has "no recollection" of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there are "a number of things that are wrong" about Giuffre's account, which alleges the encounter occurred in 2001.
"I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened," Andrew said.
The interview was widely panned by critics who said Andrew seemed insensitive to Epstein's victims. Afterward, the prince quit royal duties.
According to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, the prince abused Giuffre on multiple occasions when she was under the age of 18.
It said that on one occasion, the prince sexually abused her in London at Maxwell's home, when Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew forced her to have sexual intercourse with the prince against her will.
On another occasion, Prince Andrew sexually abused Giuffre in Epstein's New York mansion, the lawsuit said. It also alleged that Andrew sexually abused Giuffre on Epstein's private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The lawsuit added that Andrew knew her age at the time based on communications with Epstein and Maxwell. It said he went ahead anyway "for the purpose of gratifying his sexual desires."
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges in Manhattan federal court, where she faces trial in November.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019, a month after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges. New York City's medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.
As part of its continuing probe into Epstein and his encounters with women and teenage girls, Manhattan federal prosecutors formally requested to speak with Prince Andrew.
The request, similar to issuing a subpoena, was made under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an agreement between the two countries to share evidence and information in criminal cases.
- Prince Andrew 'falsely portraying himself' as willing to co-operate on Epstein case, U.S. prosecutors say
Brad Edwards, who represents dozens of Epstein victims, has said that the prince has failed to answer questions for civil lawsuits before.
"I've always been given the impression that, whether he has immunity or not, he certainly behaves like he does," Edwards said.
With files from CBC News