LONDON — Prince Andrew wasn’t on trial in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking case, but her conviction is bad news for the man who is ninth in line to the British throne.
After the Maxwell case is over, the focus will shift to the U.S. civil lawsuit in which the plaintiff claims that Jeffrey Epstein, her longtime boyfriend, took her to New York, London and the U.S Virgin Islands for sex when she was still underage.
Andrew denies the allegations, but Wednesday’s verdict shows that at least one American jury was willing to believe the young women trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell in a criminal case, where the standard of proof is higher than in civil cases.
“To the extent there’s overlap of evidence with respect to Prince Andrew’s case, it certainly doesn’t bode well,’’ said Bradley Simon, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney in complex civil cases. “But, as I said, every case hinges on its own specific facts and the judges will always instruct the jury on that.”
After a one-month trial in New York, Maxwell was found guilty Wednesday of conspiracy and sex trafficking.
Although U.S. criminal cases have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, civil defendants may be awarded financial damages if found guilty based upon a preponderance.
Andrew is unhappy about the verdict because he was friends for years with Maxwell (daughter of Robert Maxwell), a media mogul and rags to riches. Andrew didn’t distance himself even though Epstein was charged for sex crime.
Those links have already diminished the prince’s standing.
After a botched interview in 2019 with BBC, Andrew had to give up his position as working royal. This only raised concerns about Andrew’s ties to Maxwell and Epstein. The prince was widely criticized for his explanation of why he maintained contact with Epstein after the financier was accused of sexual misconduct and for failing to show empathy for Epstein’s victims.
Although the Maxwell trial didn’t offer any sensational new allegations about Andrew, it once again reminds people about the sordid allegations and weakens his standing with the public, said Chris Scott of Slateford, a London law firm that specializes in reputational issues.
“It just adds credibility to the accounts of people,’’ Scott told The Associated Press. “You have a criminal court finding now in the U.S. supporting that there was the trafficking going on. It becomes more difficult for people to claim that all this is a hoax when they have credibility. So I think that that will be very problematic for him.”
The civil suit against Andrew was filed last August by Virginia Giuffre, who says she was 17 when she was flown to London to have sex with Andrew at Maxwell’s house in Belgravia, an upscale neighborhood that is home to many foreign embassies and wealthy expatriates. Other encounters with Andrew occurred at Epstein’s homes in Manhattan and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to her lawsuit.
Giuffre, who wasn’t part of the criminal case, has described Maxwell as a “Mary Poppins” figure who made young girls feel comfortable as they were lured into Epstein’s web.
It was at Maxwell’s home in London that a photo of Andrew with his arm around Giuffre’s waist is alleged to have been taken — an image that has long been central to Giuffre’s allegations. Andrew said that the BBC interview suggested that Andrew had claimed the photo was faked.
“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady,’’ he said. “None whatsoever.’’
Andrew has a lot riding on this civil case. It is not clear if it will get to trial. Gloria Allred, who represents a number of Epstein’s victims, told the BBC she expects the prince’s attorneys to file a series of procedural challenges to try to derail the case.
This strategy was already displayed.
Andrew initially denied that the suit had been served on him. He was then given court papers giving notice of it. Then in October, his lawyers asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to throw out the suit, saying the prince never sexually abused Giuffre and that they believed she sued Andrew “to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him.” Last week, they mounted another challenge, arguing that Giuffre’s lawsuit should be thrown out because she no longer lives in the U.S.
Maxwell met Andrew while Maxwell was studying history at Oxford University in the 1980s.
Ghislaine Maxwell, like her father who was a formidable, well-connected man, became an expert networker and built a large list of contacts within the rich and powerful world in which she grew up.
Following her graduation, she was employed in many roles by the publishing family. In 1991, at the age of 29, she became her father’s U.S. emissary after he bought the New York Daily News amid efforts to compete with fellow media tycoon — and New York Post owner — Rupert Murdoch.
Robert Maxwell died later that year when he fell off his yacht — the Lady Ghislaine — in the Canary Islands, an event some saw as an accident and others a suicide. Investors soon discovered that his wealth was an illusion: Maxwell had diverted hundreds of millions of pounds from his companies’ pension funds to prop up his publishing empire.
Soon after her father’s death, Ghislaine Maxwell was photographed sitting next to Epstein during a memorial event at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Maxwell added star power to Epstein’s relationship, and they soon attended parties with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Andrew would later invite Maxwell and Epstein to Windsor Castle and Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth II’s country estate.
Ian Maxwell stated Thursday that his family believes her sister is innocent, and they will continue to support appeals against her conviction.
“We are very disappointed with the verdict,’’ the family said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have already started the appeal tonight, and we believe that she will ultimately be vindicated.”
Andrew tried to distance himself recently from Epstein who, in 2019, committed suicide while waiting for his trial in sex-trafficking cases.
Andrew stated to the BBC that Epstein was only seen three times per year. He also stayed in one of Epstein’s homes during his visits to the U.S.
After he learned of Epstein’s sexual abuse investigation, the prince claimed he had stopped speaking with Epstein. The financier was eventually sentenced to 13 months imprisonment. Andrew said he had one last meeting with Epstein in December 2010 to tell him they couldn’t remain in contact.
“It would be a considerable stretch to say that he was a very, very close friend,’’ Andrew said.