As Jeffrey Epstein‘s case progresses, Prince Andrew’s relationship with the accused has been the subject of much speculation. Now, the British royal faces potentially more embarrassment, as a judge has ruled that documents related to allegations that Epstein forced a 17-year-old woman to have sex with Prince Andrew can be unsealed.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit has said that 2,000 pages from Virginia Giuffre‘s 2015 defamation suit, in which she alleged Epstein used her as a sex slave, can be made public.
According to the court, the documents contain allegations about sexual abuse committed by “prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”
In a statement on Sunday, Buckingham Palace unequivocally denied all allegations, saying, “It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
According to Giuffre (formerly Roberts), Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s personal aide and friend of Prince Andrew, recruited her “for sexual activities.”
There is a photograph of Prince Andrew and Giuffre together, but a judge previously threw out all allegations against Prince Andrew, calling them “immaterial and impertinent to the central claim” against Epstein. Maxwell went on the record and called Giuffre a liar. Giuffre sued for defamation, and the matter was settled for millions, with most court documents being sealed.
In early July, however, U.S. Appellate Judges Jose Cabranes and Christopher Droney ordered the unsealing of the summary judgement record in this case, citing the strong presumption of public access. The third judge on the panel, Rosemary Pooler, partially dissented and did not favor a quick unsealing of these documents. Just days after this, Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport on sex-trafficking charges.
Flight logs from Epstein’s plane reportedly show Giuffre and Prince Andrew together in the same place on three separate occasions. It remains to be seen which allegations are contained in the summary judgment record and which are among the batch of documents to be reviewed on an individual basis.
The court explained the difference between summary judgement record and the other documents to be subject to “particularized review” as follows:
There are two categories of sealed material at issue in these appeals: (1) the summary judgment record, which includes the parties’ summary judgment briefs, their statements of undisputed facts, and incorporated exhibits; and (2) court filings made in the course of the discovery process and with respect to motions in limine. In this Opinion, we explain that our law requires the unsealing of the summary judgment materials and individualized review of the remaining sealed materials.
The court said that “materials submitted in connection with a motion for summary judgment are subject to a strong presumption of public access,” and should be “subject to minimal redactions.” The court also said that the lower court was “directed to review the remaining sealed materials individually and unseal those materials as appropriate,” advising that the lower court “exercise the full range of their substantial powers to ensure their files do not become vehicles for defamation.”
[Image via Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse]