The accusation has ruined his life, his work and his reputation. He has been stripped of his titles and responsibilities based on this accusation.
But what if his accuser Virginia Giuffre simply made up the story? What if she, in fact, only posed for a photograph with Prince Andrew, and then used that “evidence” to falsely claim that she had sex with him?
What if she is framing Prince Andrew in order to obtain more than millions she has already gotten from others in similar suits?
What if Prince Andrew is actually innocent?
I am not asking the readers of this article to believe Prince Andrew in his denials of ever having had sex with the accuser.
None of us knows what happened or didn’t happen after that photograph was taken.
I am only asking the readers to assume, simply for purposes of analysis, the possibility that Prince Andrew might be innocent.
Right now, he is presumed guilty. If he had been charged by an official government agency, say a prosecutor or grand jury, he would be presumed innocent as a matter of law, even though the imprimatur of the government was behind the accusation.
Here, no governmental agency or unbiased official has ever accused Prince Andrew of a crime.
His only accuser is an individual who stands to benefit financially from the accusation.
Yet the media and public opinion seem to presume Prince Andrew is guilty.
The New York Times reports that there “are legal charges hanging over him.” This suggests that some unbiased institution has leveled charges.
But anyone can be sued by anyone – hence the expression, “The Pope can be sued for paternity.”
A lawsuit for money brought by an individual should never give rise to any kind of presumption of guilt.
As Judge Jose A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals has cautioned the media and the public:
Materials submitted by parties to a court should be understood for what they are. They do not reflect the court’s own findings. Rather, they are prepared by parties seeking to advance their own interests in an adversarial process. Although affidavits and depositions are offered “under penalty of perjury,” it is in fact exceedingly rare for anyone to be prosecuted for perjury in a civil proceeding. ...
Thus, although the act of filing a document with a court might be thought to lend that document additional credibility in fact, allegations appearing in such documents might be less credible than those published elsewhere.
[T]he media does the public a profound disservice when it reports on parties’ allegations uncritically. ... Even ordinarily critical readers may take the reference to “court papers” as some sort of marker of reliability. This would be a mistake.
We therefore urge the media to exercise restraint in covering potentially defamatory allegations, and we caution the public to read such accounts with discernment. (Emphasis added.)
Many in the media have not heeded this wise warning for a number of reasons. One reason could be that media companies profit from reporting salacious accusations against prominent people.
I understand this all too well because I am being sued by Virginia Giuffre, the same person accusing Prince Andrew.
Despite the fact that I have produced overwhelming evidence of my innocence, the media highlights her accusations and buries evidence she is making false claims.
In my case, the court struck the original accusation against me, her lawyers apologized for filing it, and one of her lawyers acknowledged on tape she was wrong.
She, herself, has admitted that she falsely claimed that she had dinner with Al and Tipper Gore on Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious Island. (The Gores never even met Epstein.)
Yet, the media persist in repeating Giuffre’s accusation, merely saying that I “deny it.”
The judge in the Prince Andrew case made it clear that in allowing the case to go forward, he was not deciding who is telling the truth; that will be up to a jury.
He was merely assuming, as the law says he must, that the allegations contained in the complaint are true for purposes of further review of the evidence.
Yet the media persists in reporting on the case as if there had been a finding of guilt.
So, the fundamental question remains: Why should one individual with a history of false accusations, have the power to destroy lives, careers and reputations, based solely on an accusation?
What if the presumption of guilt that seems to have been imposed on Prince Andrew were imposed on all people who were subject to private, adversarial lawsuits?
What if it were your brother, sister or father who was being sued by an individual with a history of falsely accusing people?
These are issues that need to be debated, but today’s media seems less interested in discussing complex moral and legal issues than in assuming the worst about public figures.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and and the author most recently of "The Case for Color Blind Equality in the Age of Identity Politics," and "The Case for Vaccine Mandates," Hot Books (2021). Read more of Alan Dershowitz''s reports
By Alan Dershowitz