Fact Check: Judge Kaplan Did NOT Unilaterally Dismiss Prince Andrew Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Judge Kaplan Did NOT Unilaterally Dismiss Prince Andrew Sexual Assault Lawsuit Settlement

Did Judge Lewis Kaplan terminate a sexual assault lawsuit involving Prince Andrew in the spring of 2022 to prevent trial? No, that's not true: Both court materials and news reports show that the judge considered trial until the very last moment, when the parties entered a settlement. That was the grounds for dismissing the case, not the judge's unilateral decision.

The story appeared in a video (archived here) on YouTube where it was published on January 26, 2024, under the caption:

'You Won't BELIEVE This!' - PBD Discovers Trump's Judge's Ties To Prince Andrew & Jeffrey Epstein

One of the co-hosts continued, talking to his counterpart:

You will not even believe what I just found. Look at the case you worked on... Kaplan was the presiding judge on matters relating to Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew. Click on that, on six. Watch what happens! You know what happened to the case? Click on it. That's the one-click right there. Zoom in and just go to the top. Yeah, pop up on the agenda. Andrew reached... his case was dismissed by the party stipulation on March 2022. Without going to trial!

This is what it looked like on YouTube at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 1.15.49 PM.png

(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 18:15:49 2024 UTC)

The video implied that Judge Kaplan unilaterally dismissed the case as if the dismissal was a result of some behind-the-scene legally questionable moves.

However, all known facts about the dynamics of the 2022 hearings contradict the claim that started to spread two years later, as another case -- the E. Jean Carrol defamation lawsuit against former president Donald Trump presided over by the same judge -- was nearing a verdict.

On March 8, 2022, Judge Kaplan spelled out that the decision to dismiss the Prince Andrew case was based on the settlement agreement the parties had already reached:

STIPULATION OF DISMISSAL: Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), and the parties' settlement agreement dated February 12, 2022, Plaintiff Virginia L. Giuffre and Defendant Prince Andrew, Duke of York hereby stipulate to the dismissal of this action, with prejudice. Each party to bear her/his own costs and fees. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this action is dismissed with prejudice. (Signed by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on 3/8/22)

Screenshots below show respective court records available on PACER (click to view larger):

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 1.33.32 PM.png

(Source: PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 18:27:05 2024 UTC; PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 18:27:24 2024 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

In early January 2022, the prince's attorney, Andrew Brettler, insisted that the case "should absolutely be dismissed." On that day, however, the AP report (archived here) documented the following exchange in the courtroom:

Kaplan repeatedly shot down Brettler's arguments or disputed them with other reasoning.

'So what?' Kaplan responded to one argument.

To another, he said: 'I understand you are asserting that, but it doesn't mean it's correct.'

And to another: 'Mr. Brettler, I understand your point. It just isn't the law.'

When the hearing concluded, Kaplan promised a ruling soon and said he appreciated the 'arguments and the passion.' The judge directed that the exchange of potential evidence in the case was to proceed as scheduled.

Several days later, Judge Kaplan issued a 46-page explanation for his decision to deny the motion of the prince's attorney.

On January 31, 2022, the judge sent out several letters aimed at gathering more evidence overseas, as seen in the docket report (click to view larger):

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 2.25.57 PM.png

(Source: PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 19:25:57 2024 UTC)

On February 1, 2022, a person who was not a party to the case intervened with a request for dismissal, but the judge categorically denied that:

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 2.27.05 PM.png(Source: PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 19:27:05 2024 UTC)

On February 8, 2022, the court ordered that the parties summarize what they planned to present as evidence by March 7, 2022.

A week later, the judge extended the deadline, clearly stating that he intended to proceed with a trial if the parties didn't enter a settlement:

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 2.41.44 PM.png

(Source: PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 25 19:41:44 2024 UTC)

A screenshot of the order is below:

Screen Shot 2024-02-26 at 3.01.56 PM.png

(Source: PACER screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 20:01:56 2024 UTC)

Only after that, when informed about the settlement by Virginia Giuffre's legal representative, the judge dismissed the case.

Besides court documents, the reason for the dismissal is confirmed by reliable reports published by Reuters (archived here), AP (archived here) and the Guardian (archived here), among others.

This was one of the cases involving acquaintances of Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who had pleaded guilty to charges of soliciting an underage victim in Florida in 2008, becoming a registered sex offender. Eleven years later, Epstein died awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking minors.

Even though courts have released numerous files detailing Epstein's activities and social circles, many false statements about that continue to circulate on the internet. Lead Stories debunked some of them here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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