“I believe it is the court’s responsibility, and manifestly within its purview, to ensure the victims in this case are treated fairly and with dignity,” District Judge Richard Berman said.
One of the 16 women, who claim they were forced to be sex slaves by the late multimillionaire financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, wants Prince Andrew “to come clean”.
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and eighth in line to the British throne, has denied the allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who was under the age of consent at the time.
Giuffre, 35, has accused Epstein of keeping her as a “sex slave” and claims Epstein ordered her to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was just 17. Giuffre was photographed with Prince Andrew’s arm around her waist when she was 17 and alleges she had sex with the prince in London, New York and on Epstein’s private island just northeast of St Thomas.
In court on Tuesday (local time), she said: “My hopes were quickly dashed and my dreams were stolen.”
She has said in a court deposition she was a 15-year-old working at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida when she was approached by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell to give massages to Epstein.
When asked by a reporter for a comment on Prince Andrew during a news conference after the hearing, Giuffre said: “He knows what he’s done and he can attest to that. He knows exactly what he’s done and I hope he comes clean about it.”
— Michael Tiknis (@TiknisArts) August 11, 2019
Prince Andrew has said it was “a mistake and an error” to see Epstein after he was released from prison, and that he never saw or suspected criminal behaviour. Buckingham Palace officially stated Prince Andrew “deplores the exploitation of any human being”.
Lawyer Brad Edwards said there was a difference between “bland statements” and answering questions under oath.
“I have personally extended that invitation to Prince Andrew multiple times,” Edwards said. “We are ready and we have a lot of questions for him.”
The documents in Giuffre’s case were released on 9 August, one day before Epstein hanged himself in his cell at a Manhattan lock-up, where he was awaiting trial on a series of sex-trafficking charges. Two days before his death, Epstein signed a will funnelling his US$577 million in assets to a trust fund.
The court hearing was convened by US District Judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case after federal prosecutors had Epstein arrested last month. In opening the session, the judge called the 66-year-old Epstein’s suicide a “rather stunning turn of events” and defended his decision to let the women speak.
“I believe it is the court’s responsibility, and manifestly within its purview, to ensure the victims in this case are treated fairly and with dignity,” he said.
In addition to the 12 women who spoke, statements from over a dozen others were read in court by their lawyers, in a session lasting two-and-a-half hours.
The women repeatedly described themselves as survivors and said they hoped coming forward would help other women. They vented their fury over Epstein’s alleged crimes and his suicide in his jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges involving dozens of teenage girls.
“He is a coward,” said Courtney Wild, who has said she was sexually abused by Epstein in Florida at age 14. “Justice has never been served in this case.”
“He robbed me of my dreams, of my chance to pursue a career I adored,” said Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Epstein of raping her in his New York mansion when she was a 15-year-old aspiring actress.
“The fact I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at me. They let this man kill himself and kill the chance for justice for so many others.”
Sarah Ransome, who said Epstein pressured her into sex when she was in her early 20s, encouraged federal prosecutors in their effort to go after those who helped the financier in his pursuit of victims, saying, “Finish what you started. … We are survivors, and the pursuit of justice should not abate.”
Epstein’s former girlfriend, Maxwell, has been accused of recruiting young women for his sexual pleasure and taking part in the abuse. She has denied any wrongdoing but has settled civil cases involving Epstein’s alleged victims in their favour.