Prince Andrew in the spotlight after Ghislaine Maxwell conviction
(CNN) — Prince Andrew was barely mentioned in the course of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell‘s sex trafficking trial in New York. But the fact jurors found her guilty on five of six counts related to her role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls can hardly be good news for the UK royal.
Andrew faces a civil lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre in which she alleges she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein and forced to have sex with his friends — including the prince — and that Andrew was aware she was underage (17) in the US. Prince Andrew strongly denies the allegations.
Oral arguments in that case are set for January 4, where attorneys for the 61-year-old prince are expected to argue for the lawsuit’s dismissal.
If his lawyers are unsuccessful, or the case is not settled, the royal could face a trial date between September and December 2022. The long-running allegations facing Andrew have already dramatically tarnished his public standing and he stepped back from royal duties in late 2019.
US judges have also ruled that a confidential 2009 settlement agreement between Epstein and Giuffre, which may have also referenced Prince Andrew, should be released publicly next week.
Maxwell chose not to testify in her own trial, saying there was “no need” since the prosecution had “not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.” As a result, she was not cross-examined about her friendship with Andrew.
However, there is no guarantee she won’t take the stand in an expected appeal of her conviction — or if the civil case against Andrew goes to court. She could also choose to cooperate with the authorities — by giving them any potentially incriminating information she may have about others — in a bid to reduce her sentence, legal experts said.
“Maxwell may now have more to say on the whole subject, following her conviction,” Nick Goldstone, UK-based head of dispute resolution at international law firm Ince, told CNN, although those discussions may “take some time to play out,” he added.
“If Maxwell has incriminating information and evidence regarding Prince Andrew or indeed any other person who participated in unlawful conduct in association with Jeffrey Epstein, then I think the Prince and any others may well have a lot to fear from a sentence bargaining process,” Goldstone in an email.
“On the other hand, if Prince Andrew has done nothing wrong, he should have nothing to fear from sentence bargaining by Maxwell.”
Professor Felicity Gerry, a UK barrister and international legal expert, told CNN that appeal testimony from Maxwell was “unlikely as this would probably involve an examination of the trial evidence — similar to the Cardinal Pell trial in Australia.”
But, Gerry said, Andrew might have cause for concern if there is sentence bargaining in Maxwell’s case.
“Sentence bargaining can occur if she decides to give or has given information,” Gerry said. “This could implicate many people including Prince Andrew. She certainly has nothing to lose now that she is facing a significant sentence.”
Defendants have the most leverage to cooperate before they are charged, and that’s how they work out favorable plea bargains, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
“But it is possible in some circumstances to cooperate after conviction, though (Maxwell) will have much less leverage now,” he said.
“I suspect she will want to do whatever she can to reduce her sentence and cooperation is the only option now. Of course, it all depends on what information she has.”
The government would of course be interested if she had any incriminating information on Andrew, Toobin said — but there’s no reason to assume that she does, he added, and Andrew has denied any improper conduct.
“Now that she’s been convicted, she is a less valuable witness for the prosecution because she can be more easily discredited as someone just trying to reduce her sentence,” Toobin said.
Giuffre: Maxwell did not act alone
Giuffre was not called as either a prosecution or defense witness in Maxwell’s trial, but her name was mentioned numerous times in court.
Attorneys acting for Giuffre welcomed Maxwell’s conviction in a statement late Wednesday. “This is a great day for justice and for Maxwell’s survivors. The jury’s verdict vindicates the courage and commitment of our clients who stood up against all odds for many years to bring Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell to justice,” said US-based attorney David Boies.
“They did not act, and could not have acted, alone. The scope and scale and duration of their sex trafficking crimes depending on many wealthy and powerful collaborators and co-conspirators. They too are not above the law.”
Giuffre also hailed Wednesday’s verdict on Twitter, saying: “My soul yearned for justice for years and today the jury gave me just that. I will remember this day always.” She also voiced her compassion for the “many other girls and young women who suffered” at Maxwell’s hands.
“I hope that today is not the end but rather another step in justice being served. Maxwell did not act alone. Others must be held accountable. I have faith that they will be,” she tweeted.
One of Maxwell’s accusers, who went under the pseudonym “Kate” during the trial, said during the socialite’s trial that she was reluctant to disengage from contact with Maxwell and Epstein “because I had witnessed how connected they both were and I was fearful.”
“Kate” said she used to hear Maxwell talk to her about the socialite’s friends Prince Andrew and Donald Trump.
It’s no secret that Maxwell, the daughter of Czech-born newspaper tycoon and former British lawmaker Robert Maxwell, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1991, moved in exclusive circles in both Britain and the United States.
A now infamous photo appears to show the prince with his arm around the waist of Giuffre, then Virginia Roberts, with Maxwell in the background.
In a November 2019 BBC interview, Andrew said he did not remember meeting Giuffre and suggested that a photo of the two of them may have been doctored.
Attorneys for Prince Andrew have fought hard to have the case against him dismissed. On Tuesday, they claimed that the US court handling the civil lawsuit filed by Giuffre in August does not have jurisdiction over the case.
A motion filed in the US District Court in Manhattan states, “Ms. Giuffre alleges she is a citizen of the State of Colorado, the evidence demonstrates that she is actually domiciled in Australia, where she has lived for all but two of the past nineteen years.” The filing also asks the court to “order Ms. Giuffre to respond to targeted written discovery requests pertaining to her domicile and submit to a two-hour remote deposition limited to the issue of her domicile.”
Goldstone told CNN that both the outcome and timing of the Maxwell case appeared unhelpful to Andrew.
“Obviously the Maxwell verdicts are potentially very bad news for Prince Andrew, particularly as they come hard on the heels of his latest tactical move to argue a highly technical argument over a lack of jurisdiction of the New York Court to hear Ms Giuffre’s claim on the basis of nationality and her current residence,” he said via email.
“I think it is beyond doubt that Ms Giuffre was a US citizen at the time of the alleged incidents, which are the subject of her complaint against the Prince, irrespective of her current usual place of residence.”
CNN has reached out to attorneys for Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Prince Andrew for comment.
Giuffre brought her case under the Child Victims Act, a state law enacted in New York in 2019 which expanded the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases to give survivors more opportunities to seek justice.
Goldstone said it would be “interesting to see what substantive defence Prince Andrew has to Giuffre’s claims, as so far all that has been put forward are technical and evasive positions.”
In an earlier motion to dismiss filed on October 29, an attorney for Andrew said he “unequivocally denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.”
What happened in Maxwell’s trial?
Maxwell, 60, was found guilty in a New York federal court of five charges: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She was acquitted on the charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Prosecutors argued Maxwell and Epstein conspired to set up a scheme to lure young girls into sexual relationships with Epstein from 1994 to 2004 in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. Four women testified during the trial that Epstein abused them and that Maxwell facilitated the abuse and sometimes participated in it as well.
Her defense, meanwhile, said she was a “scapegoat” for Epstein’s actions and attacked the memories and motivations of the women who say they were sexually abused.
Maxwell’s lawyers are working on an appeal, attorney Bobbi C. Sternheim said.
“We firmly believe in Ghislaine’s innocence. Obviously, we are very disappointed with the verdict,” Sternheim said outside the courthouse Wednesday, adding her team believes Maxwell still will be vindicated.
Maxwell’s family vowed their continued support following the guilty verdict.
“We believe firmly in our sister’s innocence — we are very disappointed with the verdict. We have already started the appeal tonight and we believe that she will ultimately be vindicated,” a family statement said.
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