By Sarah Fitzpatrick and Rich Schapiro
~ August 2021 ~ One of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.K.’s Prince Andrew alleging that he sexually abused her when she was 17 years old.
The lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre accuses Andrew of sexually abusing her on separate occasions – in London, New York and on Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands – about 20 years ago when she was under the age of 18.
The suit says Epstein and his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell compelled Giuffre to engage in sexual acts with Andrew, and that he knew she was a sex-trafficking victim.
“Twenty years ago Prince Andrew’s wealth, power, position, and connections enabled him to abuse a frightened, vulnerable child with no one there to protect her. It is long past the time for him to be held to account,” says the lawsuit filed Monday in New York, which seeks damages for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Giuffre has made the allegations in court papers and in TV interviews before, including on NBC’s “Dateline.” But the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York amounts to a new front in her bid to hold Andrew, now 61, accountable for allegedly sexually abusing her when she was a teenager.
“The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions,” Giuffre said in a statement. “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.”
The suit was filed under the Child Victims Act, a New York law that gives people a one-year window to sue for sex abuse damages, regardless of when the alleged acts happened. The law went into effect in August 2019 and included a deadline for victims to file their claims by next Saturday.
Representatives for Andrew declined to comment when reached late Monday night London time.
The prince has previously denied denied allegations that he had sex with Giuffre.
In a widely criticized interview with the BBC in 2019, Andrew said he had no recollection of ever meeting her — despite a widely circulated photograph showing otherwise — and that he was at a pizza restaurant with his daughter on the day in 2001 that Giuffre alleges they had a sexual encounter in London.
Epstein, 66, died by suicide in a New York jail in August 2019 while awaiting sex trafficking charges.
The investigation into his alleged circle of enablers remains ongoing. In January 2020, Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said investigators from his office and the FBI had reached out to Prince Andrew and his attorneys but had yet to receive any assistance from him.
The lawsuit filed Monday says Giuffre was 16 when Epstein began preying on her and lending her out to his powerful friends.
It also alleges that she did not consent to engaging in sex acts with Andrew and that he knew she was under 18 at the time “based on communications from Epstein and Maxwell.”
Attorneys for Maxwell, who is locked up in Brooklyn while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She has pleaded not guilty.
On July 19, Giuffre’s attorney proposed an agreement that would have allowed her to postpone filing any lawsuit, the suit says. “Again Prince Andrew stonewalled —ignoring plaintiff’s letter and emails without any reply or response, thereby making this action necessary now.”
Giuffre previously detailed her alleged sexual encounters with Andrew – in London and on Epstein’s private island – in a “Dateline” interview that aired in 2019.
In the interview, Giuffre also recounted an incident at Epstein’s New York City mansion where she says she and another young girl were instructed to sit on Andrew’s lap. He proceeded to grope one of their breasts, Giuffre said.
A person who was there previously told NBC News that she remembers the incident.
Giuffre said the encounters with Andrew stood out because of his title.
“He was a prince. He was famous. He’s royalty. And it just stuck out in my mind,” she said. “I grew up watching Disney just like most little girls grow up watching Disney, and princesses and princes were the good people in the world, and he wasn’t.”