Prince Andrew to 'step back from public duties' after Jeffrey Epstein fallout

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, will step away from his public duties as a royal following the fallout from his past friendship with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support," the queen's second son said in a statement released Wednesday by Buckingham Palace. "Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission."

His Wednesday statement continued:

"I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

Andrew sat down with the BBC in Buckingham Palace for a taped interview that aired Saturday, in which he emphatically denied once again that he slept with one of Epstein's alleged "sex slaves" when she was 17.  

"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever," Andrew told BBC reporter Emily Maitlis. He also admitted that it was a mistake to stay friends with Epstein even after he had been convicted of sex crimes in Florida in 2008.

Shocking headlines – and pictures – popped up in January 2015 when an American woman living in Australia, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 35, alleged in court documents that she was groomed by Epstein and his associates to sexually service Epstein's powerful friends when she was a young Florida teen.

She said she was compelled to have sex with Andrew three times, in New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands and in London, starting when she was 17. At the time, Buckingham Palace issued multiple emphatic statements denying Andrew had any relationship or sexual contact with Giuffre.

Andrew also issued a statement of denial before a speech he made at Davos that year. Later in 2015, a federal judge in Florida called Giuffre's claims "immaterial" and irrelevant to the case at issue and threw them out.

American lawyers representing some of Epstein's accusers issued statements applauding Andrew's expressions of sympathy, but urging him to fully cooperate with American investigators who are continuing to probe Epstein's alleged sex-trafficking network and his possible associates. 

"I urge Prince Andrew to contact the investigators for the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York and volunteer to be interviewed by them without conditions and without delay," said Gloria Allred, who represents five accusers who are suing Epstein's estate, in an email to USA TODAY. 

Florida lawyer Spencer Kuvin, who has represented Epstein accusers in the past, said Andrew should waive diplomatic immunity and subject himself to the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities.

"He should meet with federal investigators as soon as possible, under oath, and answer for his actions while he spent time with Epstein," Kuvin said in an email to USA TODAY. He said Andrew can "show the world what type of man he is" by his actions.

"The fact that he used the phrase 'if required' shows that he and counsel for the royal family are providing themselves a possible window to argue that compelling the prince’s attendance at a sworn interview could be argued is not 'required,' " Kuvin said. "This is just another way to avoid his moral duty to place the victims first, over any personal relationships he may have."

Contributing: Maria Puente 

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