Prince Andrew attorney tells judge sex lawsuit by Jeffrey Epstein accuser might not be legal


CNBC 13 September, 2021 - 04:20pm 43 views

An attorney for Britain's Prince Andrew on Monday questioned the legality of a lawsuit claiming he sexually abused an underage girl decades ago, saying her claim might be barred by a secret settlement agreement she signed years ago in connection with accusations that she was abused by sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein.

The prince's lawyer also told a Manhattan federal judge that he disputes representations by attorneys for the accuser, Virginia Giuffre, that Prince Andrew was legally served with her lawsuit in England in late August.

"We have significant concerns about the propriety of this lawsuit," said Prince Andrew's lawyer, Andrew Brettler, during a teleconference court hearing.

"We believe this is a baseless, non-viable and potentially unlawful suit," said Brettler.

But Judge Lewis Kaplan quickly cut Brettler off, telling the lawyer that Monday's hearing was "not an occasion" to argue whether Giuffre's lawsuit is legally valid.

Giuffre' lawyer, the high-powered litigator David Boies, told Kaplan that he is confident that Prince Andrew was properly served with the suit by a process server who left a copy of the complaint with a police officer outside of a royal residence on Aug. 27 after authorities initially refused to accept the document.

But Boies told Kaplan that he will, within a week-long deadline, decide whether to ask the judge to also order alternative means of legally serving the Duke of York with the complaint, as is required in civil lawsuits. Those means could include the judge ordering that the suit be served on a foreign national under a provision in American law.

Prince Andrew, who is the son of Queen Elizabeth, reportedly has been actively trying to avoid getting served with the suit.

Earlier Monday, Brettler filed notice that he was acting as the prince's lawyer in the case, which Giuffre, who is one of Epstein's many accusers, had filed in August. The attorney said in that document that he would challenge the suit on the grounds of jurisdiction.

Giuffre claims the Duke of York sexually abused her two decades ago in New York, London and in the U.S. Virgin Islands when she was underage, and in the clutches of the prince's friend Epstein and Epstein's accused procurer Ghislaine Maxwell.

Giuffre "was regularly abused by Epstein and was lent out by Epstein to other powerful men for sexual purposes," her suit alleges.

Giuffre's suit says she was "was also forced to have sex with Defendant, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at [Epstein's] and Maxwell's direction."

Prince Andrew has denied Giuffre's allegations and claims he has no memory of even meeting her, despite the existence of a photograph that appears to show them smiling and standing next to each other as Maxwell broadly beams in the background.

Brettler told the judge Monday that he believes any claim by Giuffre against the prince — and other potential defendants — may be barred by a settlement agreement she previously signed, which is under a seal imposed by another judge in Manhattan federal court.

Brettler asked that Boies turn over that document to him to verify whether that belief is correct.

Boies in turn objected to that request, saying that he disputed Brettler's characterization of the significance of the settlement deal relative to Prince Andrew, and arguing that it was premature for the prince's lawyer to request any evidence while he was still arguing that the suit was not legally served.

Kaplan did not rule on the request, saying that the other federal judge has yet to rule whether the document can be unsealed.

"She's in charge ... and we'll leave it at that," Kaplan said, referring to the other judge.

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Epstein, a former friend of ex-Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, died from what has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging in 2019 while being held in a Manhattan federal jail pending trial on child sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell is due to go on trial in Manhattan federal court in November on charges that she recruited underage girls to be abused by Epstein.

She has pleaded not guilty in that case. Maxwell is being held without bond in a Brooklyn jail.

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Biden receives briefing from Federal and State Fire Agency Officials

Channel 4 News 14 September, 2021 - 12:30am

Judge tells Prince Andrew’s lawyers they’re making sex abuse case too ‘complicated’

The Independent 13 September, 2021 - 05:32pm

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan made the comment at a Monday hearing by telephone, during which the Duke of York’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, disputed that the royal had been validly served a court summons.

“Mr Brettler, I think we’re making this a lot more complicated than it really is,” Judge Kaplan said.

The comment, and others the judge made in the same tone, could be a sign that Prince Andrew’s supposed tactics of delay are not likely to work much longer.

“Let’s cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance,” Judge Kaplan later added.

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

But on Monday, Prince Andrew’s lawyers vigorously denied that this service was valid.

“We do contest the validity of service to date,” Mr Brettler said. “The Duke has not been properly served under either UK law or pursuant to The Hague Convention.”

Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, disputed this, saying the prince had been served “in several ways,” including by mail and by direct delivery to his last-known address.

“We believe that service has been effected,” Mr Boies said.

Judge Kaplan gave Ms Giuffre’s lawyers one week to request another attempt at serving the summons by other means, via either the Hague Convention or a legal mechanism called Rule 4F3.

In California, Worsening Fires Show Limits of Biden’s Power

Fox News 13 September, 2021 - 04:04pm

Despite a visit meant to emphasize his actions on wildfires, experts say there is little the president can do for now to reduce the damage as climate change gets worse.

These fires are blinking code red for our nation. They’re gaining frequency and ferocity. And we know what we have to do. My “Build Back Better” plan includes billions of dollars for wildfire preparedness, resilience and response, forest management to restore millions of acres and to protect homes and public water sources. We know that decades of forest management decisions have created hazardous conditions across the Western forest, but we can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change. It isn’t about red or blue states. It’s about fires, just fires. When I think about climate change, I think about not the cost, I think about good- paying jobs it’ll create. But I also think about the jobs we’re losing due to impacts on the supply chains and industries because we haven’t acted boldly enough. We have to build back, and you’ve heard me say it 100 times, not just build back, but build back better. As one nation, we’ve got to do it together. We’ll get through this together. We just have to keep the faith.

President Biden visited California on Monday to tout his efforts to better protect the state against the raging wildfires that have burned more than two million acres, displaced thousands and pushed responders to the brink of exhaustion.

“These fires are blinking code red for our nation,” said Mr. Biden, who used the occasion to promote two bills pending in Congress that would fund forest management and more resilient infrastructure as well as combat global warming. The country couldn’t “ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change,” he said.

But experts say there are limits to what the federal government can do to reduce the scale and destructive power of the fires, at least in the short term. That’s because much of the authority needed relies on state and local governments, those experts said.

Federal action largely depends on Congress approving new funding — but even if approved, that money might not make much of a difference anytime soon.

“Climate change impacts can’t be absolved in a single year,” said Roy Wright, who was in charge of risk mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency until 2018. The goal, he said, should be “investments that will pay back over the coming three to five years.”

On wildfires, like so much else, President Biden presented himself as the opposite of former President Donald J. Trump: Clear about the role of climate change, willing to listen to experts, and promising to better defend places like California against a growing threat.

“If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?” Mr. Biden said in a speech last year as California staggered through record-breaking fires. “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”

Mr. Biden, of course, won the election — only to see the damage from wildfires in California and across the country continue to get worse.

“We have to act more rapidly and more firmly and more broadly than today,” Mr. Biden told a small crowd gathered in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “We can’t afford to let anything slip further. It really is a matter of what the world will look like.”

Over the past decade, the number of fires in California each year has remained consistent, hovering around 7,000 to 10,000 annually.

What has changed is their scale.

Until 2018, the largest wildfires in the state seldom burned more than 300,000 acres, according to state data. In 2018, the Ranch fire consumed more than 400,000 acres, and last year, the August Complex fire topped 1 million acres, making it the largest blaze in the state’s history.

Just north of the Caldor fire is the Dixie fire, which has already burned more than 960,000 acres and is not yet contained. That fire could break last year’s record.

“The fire situation in California is unrecognizably worse than it was a decade ago,” said Michael Wara, director of the climate and energy policy program at Stanford University. He said that with the exception of 2019, each of past five years has brought fires that were more destructive than the year before it.

The wildfire crisis in California has often become a political fight. Last summer, President Trump blamed California for its fire problem, and initially denied federal disaster aid.

“You gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests,” Mr. Trump said at the time, in comments that emphasized just one aspect of a complex problem. “There are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable.”

Mr. Trump also dismissed the link between forest fires and global warming. When state officials urged him not to ignore the science of climate change, which shows that higher temperatures and drought are making fires more destructive, Mr. Trump inaccurately responded, “I don’t think science actually knows.”

While Mr. Trump was wrong to dismiss the role played by climate change in exacerbating the fires, he was right that more aggressive forest management is vital for addressing those fires, experts say. But much of that work must come from the federal government, which owns about half the land in California, Dr. Wara said.

Mr. Biden’s first budget request, earlier this year, didn’t ask Congress for enough money to reduce the amount of flammable vegetation in the nation’s forests, Dr. Wara said. The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill now pending on Capitol Hill would significantly increase that funding.

“There’s no fixing the wildfire problem without dealing with how forests have been managed,” Dr. Wara said.

The Biden administration has taken other steps to reduce the damage from fires, including increasing the number of air tankers and helicopters at its disposal and boosting pay for federal firefighters to $15 an hour.

“We owe them a whole hell of a lot more,” Mr. Biden told California emergency workers on Monday, before leading a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for an employee.

FEMA has also made more money available to help communities prepare for fires in advance, for example by building fire breaks or retrofitting homes. And after a fire strikes, the agency has made it easier for fire victims who have lost proof of homeownership — documents that are often destroyed in a fire — to apply for assistance to rebuild that home.

And Mr. Biden has asked Congress to approve measures that would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. But even if those changes were to become law, the amount of carbon dioxide and other warming gases that has already been released into the atmosphere means the planet will continue to heat up for years.

Much of the action that would go the furthest toward reducing wildfire risk is outside the scope of federal authority, according to Kimiko Barrett, a wildfire policy expert at Headwaters Economics, a consulting group in Montana.

Protecting Americans from fires means reducing home construction in fire-prone areas — decisions historically made at the state and local level, she said.

“We’re developing and building homes in places that are very exposed to wildfires,” Dr. Barrett said. She said communities need to incorporate the risk of fires into how they grow, just as they do with flooding and, increasingly, with sea level rise.

Still, Mr. Biden could use the megaphone of the presidency to encourage state and local officials to be more thoughtful about where and how they build, said Michele Steinberg, wildfire division director for the National Fire Protection Association.

“Folks, there is something called building codes, and land-use ordinances, and they’re really good, and they really work when applied,” Ms. Steinberg offered as the message Mr. Biden could convey. “That would be a huge step in the right direction.”

But even if Mr. Biden wanted to send that message, he would be competing against the deeply held American view that land is something to profit from, rather than to conserve or protect, she said.

“It’s more like, let’s get the value out of this land that we can right now,” Ms. Steinberg said, “and let the next generation worry about it.”

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