Top Hollywood lawyer warned Prince Andrew’s defence team not to stonewall New York hearing

The Duke of York’s legal strategy took a last-minute about-turn after his newly appointed American lawyer intervened .

rince Andrew’s London-based legal team had planned to “stonewall” proceedings in the sexual assault civil case and had no intention of taking part in Monday  evening’s pre-trial hearing before a New York federal judge.

However, when Andrew Brettler, a high-profile Hollywood lawyer, was hired as lead counsel, he warned it would do them no favours to ignore the judge’s order, forcing a change of tack.

Mr Brettler has represented a string of celebrities facing sexual assault charges, including the actor Armie Hammer, who is accused of rape and of expressing cannibalistic fantasies in messages to women.

In May, he spoke out against the #MeToo movement, suggesting there was an “assumption of wrong-doing just based on an accusation, even an anonymous one”.

Mr Brettler was instructed by the duke around a fortnight ago, but his involvement in the case had been kept a tightly guarded secret to ensure lawyers representing his accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, could not serve him with the lawsuit.

However, he made himself known to the court just before Monday evening’s hearing, having persuaded the UK legal team to engage with proceedings.

Ms Giuffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with the duke three times when she was 17 in New York, London and the US Virgin islands, is suing him for undisclosed damages.

Mr Brettler has dismissed her claims as “baseless”, insisting the duke had not been correctly served with a summons, and asked for a copy of a “secret settlement agreement” Ms Giuffre made with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2009, in which she allegedly promised not to take further action against the financier or his associates.

The agreement, which is sealed, is said to have prompted the dismissal, by consent, last month of Ms Giuffre’s civil claim against Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Epstein’s former lawyer. (©Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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