Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US.
Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender.
“At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,” Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning. “These unnecessary details shall be stricken.”
Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations.
Marra made no ruling or statement about the veracity of Roberts’s allegations. He said the “factual details regarding with whom and where” she had sex were “immaterial and impertinent” to her argument that she should be allowed to join the lawsuit.
However, Marra noted that Roberts may yet appear as a witness when the long-running case finally goes to trial.
Brad Edwards, an attorney for Roberts, said in a statement that her legal team “absolutely respect” the judge’s ruling, which had recognised Roberts’s right to take part in the case as a witness. Roberts said: “I’m happy to get to participate in this important case.”
A Buckingham Palace official said the Duke had been informed of the Floridacourt’s ruling and was spending this week in private, before resuming his schedule of public engagements next week.
His spokesman declined to comment further but referred back to repeated palace denials of Roberts claims, including a 3 January statement that “it is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
Five court filings in the Florida case, including a document filed on December 30 last year in which Andrew was first accused, were immediately sealed from the public.
The filing at that time placed Andrew under intense pressure, forcing him to return to his home at Windsor from Verbier in Switzerland where he was on a skiing holiday with a party including his daughter Princess Beatrice.
The duke only resumed public engagements at the World Economic Forum in Davos in late January where he was pursued by reporters and used a short speech “to reiterate and to reaffirm” the existing emphatic Buckingham Palace denials of what courtiers described as “lurid and deeply personal” claims.
Buckingham Palace broke with convention to directly address the sex claims, and Andrew approved a statement which vehemently denied “any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts”. It continued: “The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”
Roberts, who is referred to in the case only as Jane Doe 3, and a fourth woman were seeking to join two other alleged victims of Epstein in suing the US government over a plea deal that federal prosecutors struck with the hedge fund tycoon in 2008.
Under the plea agreement, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl. He received an 18-month jail sentence and served 13 months before being released. He remains a registered sex offender in Florida and the US Virgin Islands, where he lives on a private island.
The agreement was criticised as being extraordinarily lenient by attorneys for a series of women who allege that Epstein sexually abused them when they were under the age of consent. The FBI, which took over the investigation into Epstein, said it had identified dozens of potential victims.
Roberts has for years alleged that she travelled around the world with Epstein as his “sex slave” and was made to have sex with some of his influential associates, including prominent politicians and royalty.
Marra ruled on Tuesday that the application by Roberts and Jane Doe 4 should be denied, as it was “entirely unnecessary” for the pair to be added as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The women suing Epstein allege that the government’s plea deal violated their rights as victims.
Describing Roberts’s allegations as “duplicative” of the existing lawsuit, the judge said the lawsuit already sought to overturn Epstein’s plea agreement on behalf of all “other similarly-situated victims”.
Marra noted in his order that US law empowers judges to “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.”
Allegations that Roberts was also made to have sex with Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and another friend of Epstein, were also struck from the case by Marra. The judge said a legal attempt by Dershowitz to intervene in the case was now unnecessary.
In recent weeks the duke has carried out more engagements, including opening the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) Air Response Unit prior to Easter and before that leading a “Pitch@Palace” event, a Dragons Den-style scheme to match investors with entrepreneurs using technology in the creative industries.