As I wrote last week, I have bounced a lot of the legal activity around the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell off of former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida-turned-litigator David S. Weinstein, who has been a wise sounding board. I asked him about today’s news that Prince Andrew has settled with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who had accused him of sexual abuse when she was a minor. In just weeks, Andrew was scheduled to give a deposition.
Here’s my conversation with Weinstein, condensed for clarity.
WARD: You said you foresaw this settlement. Why?
WEINSTEIN: Because of the high stakes that were involved. The stakes were very high for Prince Andrew in this, and you saw how he was trying to avoid any litigation whatsoever because of the fact that he filed his motions to dismiss—he was doing whatever he could to keep this case out of the courts. When that didn't work, he had to answer the complaint, and they were getting ready for the deposition. He certainly didn't want to sit down under oath and answer any questions. So he was faced with a difficult choice: He could reach a settlement and pay Virginia Giuffre or he could pay his lawyers to keep fighting this. But then it would keep staying in the public view.
WARD: How significant is it that, in the settlement, he doesn't admit to any wrongdoing?
WEINSTEIN: Well, usually that's the case. It's certainly significant to him because now there will be no public record of him admitting any of the conduct that was alleged in her civil complaint, but that's the nature of settlement agreements. The parties agree to confidentiality. They keep everything under seal. There's a duty to not disclose for fear of breach by both of the parties so, in that way, the public doesn't get what it was really looking for.
A photograph appearing to show Prince Andrew with a then-17-year-old Virginia Roberts Giuffre and, in the background, Ghislaine Maxwell. || Florida Southern District Court
WARD: I'm reading different figures—I'm reading £10 million in some places, I've read £7.5 million. What does the figure say?
WEINSTEIN: It's all speculation. Any figure that you're going to read anywhere is speculation. Unless someone on the inside is speaking out of bounds and talking to people, these are confidential numbers. I'm sure people are speculating as to how much the settlement was worth and whether or not that's the right amount or the right figure. It's a confidential settlement agreement. So the amount that's actually paid to Virginia Giuffre is not something anybody will ever see. Now, there's a separate part of the settlement where her lawyers have said that he's making a substantial donation to one of her charities. If that charity has a public-reporting requirement, then when that report comes out, you'll be able to see how much was donated to that charity. That doesn't mean that's a settlement amount. That just means that's how much was donated to the charity.
VICKY: And what kind of cut will her lawyers get?
WEINSTEIN: Well, you know, this is an interesting case. Certainly, we're all familiar with the percentage that lawyers get on recoveries and civil lawsuits. She's the victim of sexual abuse. Those numbers are often smaller given the nature of what the lawsuit is. And so it depends on how giving the law firm is willing to be. They're certainly going to be covered for their costs and some of the time that they put into this, but given what has happened to her and the nature of the allegations, it may be less than the traditional amount.
VICKY: Well when you say traditional…. I mean, I think that David Boies [Giuffre’s lawyer] has told me in the past that 40% was his contingency fee for some of the Jeffrey Epstein survivors he represented.
WEINSTEIN: Right. So, if that’s the norm, he may take less than 40%, but he's certainly not going to take more than the 40%.
WARD: The fact that Prince Andrew didn't want to be deposed is obviously extremely telling, right? I mean, when somebody doesn't want to be deposed, you have to wonder why.
WEINSTEIN: Well, certainly it begs the question of why he doesn't want to answer any of the questions under oath. And the most obvious answer is that a truthful answer is one that's going to be at the very least embarrassing to him—and potentially much more than just embarrassing. He may have also had a talking-to with his mother, and she told him, This needs to be finished and done and we need to move on from this. I need this not to be on the news every day. You may have wanted to defend yourself in this, but they're going to ask some very difficult questions. And she might prefer that he not answer those questions.
WARD: Is there any sort of precedent that this sets? I mean, obviously you have a British prince and this is American law—it's New York law. Is there anything that this case sets as a precedent in terms of international law or anything like that?
WEINSTEIN: I don't think it sets any precedent in terms of any rulings on international law. This case has proceeded by the book and according to the rules; there have been no exceptions made with regard to where people were going to sit for depositions, how they were going to be deposed, and no unique rulings that have been made thus far. There are certainly not going to be any unique rulings that are made down the road. I think that, more than anything else, it shows that in this day and age of both technology and the pandemic, the court system still continues to operate much the same as it's operated over all these years. Lawsuits are brought where courts have jurisdiction and venue over the acts that occurred. People fight about that, judges rule, and then results are had whether they're a verdict, settlements, dismissals, or outright acquittals.
WARD: Right. Really helpful, David.
Ms. Ward: the good news I decided to subscribe, but the bad is, I did so to be able to comment on some of your posts that seem to be misguided. This is one of them. Virginia Roberts -- who procured underage girls for Epstein as his madam and should have been prosecuted, had a history of saying --and selling -- untruthful stories. She field her suit on the last day of the limitations period. She was a known prostitute for Epstein. There was zero evidence that Andrew did anything illegal -- only the accusations of an unindicted felon madam. There was also no evidence that Roberts had even been "abused" other than statutory rape -- underage sex that is presumed to be without consent as a technicality, even when there is consent.
Roberts was known to flaunt her Epstein-expense account on the Upper East Side. Andrew may well have had sex with her, but no one -- no one -- has proven it or when or where. This was a classic extortion hit on Andrew. Because of his position, he could never defend himself. Even if he had had a video of her begging him to have sex, showing an ID that she was 18...he would still lose because of the tawdry nature of it.
I have no dog in any fight about monarchy, wealth, sex or otherwise. But as a lawyer with decades of experience and anecdotal information about Roberts in her happy golden years as a well paid hooker and procurer, I am troubled by the excitement you show at incriminating Andrew. If you are to be "Vicky Ward Investigates," it would be good to focus on evidence rather than gossip.
If people knew they wuld feel conscience bound to action so changing the channel to avoid the naked truth is preferable right?