It’s a royal mess.
Prince Andrew has long been known as an international playboy, but the latest headlines about him are far more ruinous than anything written about him before.
Or, for that matter, about any British royal for at least a couple hundred years.
The Duke of York has been accused in a Florida lawsuit, along with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, of having sex with an underage girl who claims she was a 17-year-old “sex slave” hired to service them and other rich and famous friends of Jeffrey Epstein, an American multi-millionaire financier and convicted sex offender.
Both men deny this.
Dershowitz, a skilled lawyer and canny media personality, is fighting back with all the considerable legal and public-relations tools at his disposal.
Andrew, 54, is in a tougher position. As a royal, he can’t go on TV and call down vengeance on his accuser the way Dershowitz can. Even if her accusations are proved to be false, his already-sullied reputation has been further damaged in a way that probably can’t be fixed. And it’s not over yet.
Hence the huge headlines in the British media, which have long enjoyed pursuing royal sex scandals, especially if it involves “Randy Andy,” the queen’s second son.
Buckingham Palace last week issued three increasingly emphatic statements on Andrew’s behalf, denying he had sex with an underage girl. This was certainly a first. The palace even named the accuser, an American named Virginia Roberts, now 31, and a mother of three who’s been living in Australia.
Dan Abrams, ABC’s legal analyst, said this is remarkable coming from a palace press operation that rarely responds in this way. “But they have to respond to this and these kinds of allegations,” he said on Good Morning America.
Roberts was outed in the British media in stories that featured pictures of her in Denver recently, and details about her plans to write a tell-all memoir about her three years (1999-2002) as an alleged “sex-slave” for Epstein.
Where is Andrew now?
He cut short a Swiss ski vacation and returned to London for consultations with royal officials. He was reported on Monday to have told his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, that he is innocent. Even his ex-wife but still-close friend, Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York, has jumped to defend him.
Andrew’s friendship with Epstein, now a convicted sex offender, has already damaged him. Allegations that he knew of Epstein’s activities have dogged him for years, and in 2011 this forced him to step down from his position as a trade envoy representing Britain around the world.
Where is Dershowitz?
Turn on any TV.
Dershowitz, once Epstein’s lawyer, says he’s gone to court to deny the accusations but he’s most visible expressing his rage in the media, saying he never met Roberts let alone had sex with her. She and her Florida lawyers have “made up” the accusation out of whole cloth, he says, challenging her to make her claims in public so he can sue her for defamation, and seeking to disbar her lawyers for “abuse” of the legal system.
“That’s more than just a denial, that’s a challenge,” Abrams said. “He’s challenging her and her lawyers to come out in public [outside of court documents]and make these allegations so he can sue them.”
As is his wont, Dershowitz has not held back. On CNN, he called Roberts a “prostitute” and a “serial liar,” among other choice epithets. He sought to undermine Roberts’ credibility by pointing to the claim by her father that she once met the queen, a claim palace officials, who keep records on this, strongly denied.
If she’s lying about Dershowitz, as he says, then she can’t be believed about her Andrew claims, Dershowitz said.
But he reserved his strongest ire for her lawyers, Bradley Edwards and Paul Cassell, a former federal judge.
“They will rue the day they filed this,” he said, adding “They will not get away with this.”
What do the accuser’s lawyers say?
Edwards and Cassell did not return calls, but Edwards told CNN in an e-mail that the lawyers “carefully investigated all of the allegations before filing court documents.”
They also included a statement from Roberts in which she called herself an “innocent victim” who is being “victimized again.”
“These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time,” her statement read. “That trend should change. I’m not going to be bullied back into silence,” she added.
What does Epstein say?
He’s not been heard from in this latest flare-up of his case.
Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008, and was sentenced to a little over a year in prison. After he got out, Epstein and Andrew were photographed together walking in New York.
Alleged victims of Epstein’s alleged “sex-slave” operation, identified as “Jane Does,” then filed suit in Florida in 2008 against federal prosecutors seeking to overturn Epstein’s plea agreement. The women argue the prosecutors failed to consult them, as required under the Crime Victims Rights Act.
Why the furor now over a 6-year-old lawsuit?
On Friday, lawyers added two new Jane Does to the suit, including Roberts. In order to demonstrate why they’re relevant to the case, the lawyers filed documents in which Dershowitz and Andrew are named, not as defendants but as alleged recipients of the services of Epstein’s alleged sex-slave operation.
“One such powerful individual Epstein forced [Roberts] to have sexual relations with was a member of the British Royal Family, Prince Andrew [aka Duke of York],” the filing said. She alleged she was underage at the time and the illicit sex took place in London, in New York, and “on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands [in an orgy with numerous other under-aged girls].”
The filing also states that Epstein required Roberts to have sex with Dershowitz when she was a minor, in Florida, on private planes, in New York, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Plus, the filing says, Dershowitz was “an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of other minors by Epstein and several of Epstein’s co-conspirators.” Later, Dershowitz helped negotiate Epstein’s plea agreement, the filing says.
What do other lawyers have to say about all this?
Abrams dismisses the possibility that Andrew could face criminal charges, partly because of the statute of limitations and partly because of questions about his immunity as a foreign royal.
James Cohen, associate law professor at Fordham University Law School, who also teaches legal ethics, said the Florida lawsuit faces several obstacles, including that a civil lawsuit filed against prosecutors has “virtually no chance of success because prosecutors have immunity against such lawsuits.”
Any move seeking to resentence Epstein would also be difficult because he’s protected against double jeopardy by the Constitution. “Any notion that they can have any success at all in bringing Epstein back into the picture for more punishment — it can’t happen,” Cohen said.
So what is the point of accusing Andrew and Dershowitz now?
Money or revenge or both, says Cohen.
“In general, people do things in this context for money,” he said. “Somebody thinks that if they smear Andrew and others, they’re going to get some money out of it. In my judgment, it will lead to the opposite, because people will resist paying money,” he added.
If Roberts and the other accusers are telling the truth, perhaps they want to get back at the people they believe abused them, Cohen said.
But “if revenge is the motive, why has it taken so long?”