Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

“Defendant is not the first plaintiff to put forward this argument, which has been rejected by every state and federal court in New York that has encountered it,” the federal judge wrote in the 46-page decision. “And it has been repeatedly rejected for good reason.”

The brief refusal represents a clear message from the courts: The Child Victims Act, the basis of Virginia Giuffre’s trial against Prince Andrew, is here to stay.

“I see this verdict as very important, as another step toward truly recognizing the right of survivors to really bring their case to court,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon, which advocated for the law for years.

The Child Victims Act was passed in 2019 and created a one-year review window – later extended to two years due to the pandemic – where victims of child sexual abuse could file a civil lawsuit against a person or institution, no matter how much time had passed since the abuse. The law also extended the statute of limitations for potential cases of child sexual abuse in the future.
Previously, cases of child sexual abuse in New York could not be prosecuted more than five years after the crime took place, and civil lawsuits had to be filed within three years of the victim’s 18th birthday.

The idea of ​​the Child Victims Act was that many victims of child sexual abuse take years to speak publicly about their trauma, and this law would give them an opportunity to finally get their day in court.

“For many survivors, it feels like a chance to get some form of public social recognition of the horrific abuses they have been subjected to, to confront the person who harmed them, or the institution, and to really speak the truth about, what happened to them, and in some cases to receive compensation for what they have suffered, “Roberts said.

The flashback window opened in August 2019 and closed in August 2021. Over 10,600 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed in New York during that period, according to New York Courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

One of those plaintiffs was Giuffre, who filed a lawsuit in the last week of the review window. In his trial, Giuffre claimed that Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was a minor in Jeffrey Epstein’s home in Manhattan, Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands and in London’s home of Epstein’s close colleague Ghislaine Maxwell.

Prince Andrew has denied the allegations. He can still choose to appeal the verdict.

Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal charges of sex trafficking in July 2019 and died of suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, his ex-girlfriend, was arrested a year later and charged with facilitating Epstein’s abuse plan. A jury convicted her in late December on five federal charges, including sex trafficking with a minor and conspiracy.

Why the judge upheld the law on child victims

The prince’s lawyers had pressed for Giuffre’s trial to be rejected and put forward several arguments for doing so. One of them was that the law on child victims was unconstitutional because it violated the fair trial of those accused of misdemeanors.
The law has previously been upheld by other judges, including back in May 2020 in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island.

In its ruling Wednesday, Kaplan cited a handful of cases in which judges had rejected the constitutional argument. He described the Child Victims Act’s review window as a “reasonable measure to address an injustice and well within the framework of the new legal standard formulated shortly before its adoption.”

Prince Andrew stripped of military titles and charities during trial on sex abuse

Barry Salzman, a lawyer who has represented pro bono survivors of sexual abuse in cases against the clergy and Epstein, said such flashbacks, also known as statutes of limitations, have long been seen as constitutional. The prince’s argument against the law is going to fail, he told CNN.

“I honestly do not think it is a particularly strong argument and I do not think it will ever be beaten down,” he said.

Salzman praised the judge’s decision and said he was happy to see the case move forward.

“As a lawyer who has spoken out for victims for so many years, I’m really happy to see legislation like CVA that has really allowed all of these survivors to have their day in court,” he said. “I think it really speaks for more openness or acceptance in our society to believe in these people.”

Roberts also said that Safe Horizon had advocated for the law for a decade, and lawyers had carefully crafted the language of the law. She said the argument that defendants lose their fair trial was “strange”.

“All the law does is give them a chance to go to court. They still have to prove their case,” she said. “The defendant has access to all the usual protections in court as a defendant in a lawsuit.”

CNN’s Sonia Moghe and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

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