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Giuffre’s Prince Andrew suit goes ahead despite Epstein deal

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NEW YORK (AP) — A judge has — for now — refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Britain’s Prince Andrew by an American woman who says he sexually abused her when she was 17.

Stressing Wednesday that he wasn’t ruling on the truth of the allegations, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected an argument by Andrew’s lawyers that Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit should be thrown out at an early stage because of an old legal settlement she had with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier she claims set up sexual encounters with the prince.

Kaplan said the $500,000 settlement between Epstein and Giuffre didn’t involve the prince and didn’t bar a suit against him now.

Giuffre sued the 61-year-old Andrew in August, saying she was coerced into sexual encounters with him in 2001 by Epstein and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell. Giuffre said she was sexually abused by Andrew at Maxwell’s London home, at Epstein’s New York mansion and his estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Andrew’s lawyers had said the lawsuit lacked specificity and was disqualified by the deal she reached in 2009 with lawyers for Epstein. They also attacked Giuffre’s credibility and motives, saying in October that the lawsuit was aimed at achieving “another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him.”

Kaplan said Giuffre’s complaint is neither “unintelligible” nor “vague” nor “ambiguous.”

“It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse,” he wrote.

The judge included in his ruling facts alleged by Giuffre, including that Epstein and Maxwell were guests at the prince’s 40th birthday party in 2000 and that Andrew invited Epstein to his daughter’s 18th birthday party in 2006, a month after Florida state prosecutors charged Epstein with procuring a minor for prostitution.

The prince’s lawyers have said that Andrew never sexually abused or assaulted Giuffre and that he “unequivocally denies Giuffre’s false allegations against him.”

The prince himself has strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations. In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that sex with Giuffre “didn’t happen” and he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her. His statements led critics to say he seemed insensitive to Epstein’s victims. Afterward, the prince stepped back from royal duties.

His lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday. Buckingham Palace told The Associated Press that it would not comment on the “ongoing legal matter.”

Sigrid McCawley, an attorney for Giuffre, said in a statement that Kaplan’s ruling “is another important step in Virginia’s heroic and determined pursuit of justice as a survivor of sex trafficking.”

While Andrew denies the allegations, Buckingham Palace will want him to settle the case so Queen Elizabeth II can move on without more sordid headlines that weaken the monarchy and taint every member of the royal family, said Mark Stephens, a specialist in international law at Howard Kennedy in London.

Stephens said Wednesday’s ruling means the process of delaying every technical point open to them as a matter of law has effectively played itself out. Even though Andrew is likely to appeal, the case will move forward, and he will face the embarrassment of having to testify about his alleged activities with a 17-year-old.

“The practical realities of this position have stuck a noose around Prince Andrew’s neck,’’ Stephens said. “He’s got to settle. He’s got to get out. Or he’s a dead man walking.”

Kaplan noted that he was required by law, at this stage of the litigation, to assume Giuffre’s allegations are true, though the prince’s lawyers could cast doubt on the truth of the claims at trial. The judge has said a trial would not occur until late this year, at the earliest. Depositions of the prince and Giuffre would take place before then.

Giuffre’s settlement with Epstein was reached a decade before the 66-year-old financier killed himself at a Manhattan federal lockup as he awaited a sex trafficking trial in 2019, over a decade after Florida federal prosecutors struck a deal with his lawyers not to prosecute him. His lawyers claimed the Florida deal prevented the New York charges.

Similarly, Andrew’s attorneys cited language in the recently unsealed $500,000 settlement by Epstein with Giuffre that said her claims against “potential defendants” were also disallowed by the deal.

But Kaplan wrote that there were substantial indications in the settlement that Epstein and Giuffre did not clearly intend to “directly,” “primarily,” or “substantially” benefit someone such as the prince. He noted that the prince was not a party to the agreement.

He also said the agreement was “far from a model of clear and precise drafting.”

The judge’s findings mirrored comments he made during oral arguments by both sides when he was particularly dismissive of the arguments made on the prince’s behalf.

Epstein’s death came more than two years before his former girlfriend, Maxwell, 60, was convicted of sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in Manhattan federal court. Giuffre’s allegations against Andrew were not part of the criminal cases against Epstein or Maxwell.

Giuffre asserted that she met Andrew while she traveled frequently with Epstein between 2000 and 2002, when her lawyers maintain she was “on call for Epstein for sexual purposes” and was “lent out to other powerful men,” including Andrew. Her lawsuit said she still suffers significant emotional and psychological distress and harm.

The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they choose to come forward publicly, as Giuffre has.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Miami-bound Crystal Symphony changes course, docks in Bimini after US judge orders seizure

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MIAMI (AP) — A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over millions of dollars in unpaid fuel.

Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony currently docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.

Passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

“We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!” passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.

It was unclear how many passengers were aboard, with one news outlet reporting 300 and another, 700. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Miami on Saturday. But a federal judge in Miami issued an arrest warrant for the ship Thursday, a maritime practice where a U.S. Marshal goes aboard a vessel and takes charge of it once it enters U.S. waters.

Passengers and entertainers said on social media they were surprised to find out about the legal case. One guest posted a letter on Facebook from Crystal Cruises Management that said the change in itinerary was due to “non-technical operational issues.”

The lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court by Peninsula Petroleum Far East against the ship under a maritime procedure that allows actions against vessels for unpaid debts. The complaint says Crystal Symphony was chartered or managed by Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises, which are both sued for breach of contract for allegedly owing $4.6 million in fuel.

Crystal Cruises announced earlier this week that it was suspending operations through late April. Besides Crystal Symphony, it has two other ships currently cruising, which end their voyages on Jan. 30 in Aruba and on Feb. 4 in Argentina.

“Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward,” the company said in a statement earlier this week.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Federal Government’s N95 Masks Distribution Starts Monday

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Starting Monday, courtesy of the federal government, you’ll be able to get your hands on an N95 mask for free.

The Biden administration announced a week ago that 400 million masks were being shipped to pharmacies and community health centers nationwide.

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Americans can get up to three N95s free of charge. However, only adult-sized N95s are expected be available when the distribution begins.

The expectation is that most pharmacies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccines will participate in the mask distribution.

In Florida, this would mean:

  • CVS Health
  • Walgreens
  • Publix
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Fresco y Más
  • Harveys Supermarket
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger

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CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald was able to confirm Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket pharmacies are participating. Walgreens and CVS told the Miami Herald they plan to have free N95s in the coming weeks.

As for a participating community health center, the Health Resources and Services Administration has created an online locator tool.

The Florida Association of Community Health Centers also has it’s own locator website.

Kenneth Ray swears by the N95 masks after working in the mechanical insulation field and being exposed to asbestos and other toxins.

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“Whatever we can do to control the spread, it’s good for everyone,” he said.

CBSMiami.com Team

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