NEW YORK -- U.S. investigators probably can't force Britain's Prince Andrew to cooperate in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking probe and the duke's lawyers should probably not allow him to be interviewed by investigators, legal experts said.
“It would be an error of astounding proportion for him to ever come to the United States," said Rob Feitel, an ex-federal prosecutor now in private practice. "It would probably also be an error for him to ever meet with U.S. law enforcement authorities and make a statement.”
Prosecutors in New York have wanted to speak with Andrew for several months as part of their examination of allegations, made by several women, that some of Epstein's staff and his girlfriend helped recruit him underage sex partners.
One of those women, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, also claims Epstein arranged for her to have sex with several rich or notable men, including Andrew. Giuffre said she had sex with the prince three times — in London and at Epstein’s New York mansion when she was 17 and in the U.S. Virgin Islands when she was about 18.
In November, Andrew, whose older brother Prince Charles is heir to the throne, denied those allegations but said he would “help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
But he has yet to speak with New York investigators about his past friendship with Epstein, who killed himself last year while awaiting trial.
This week, his lawyers blamed the U.S. Department of Justice, saying the prince had offered three times to give information to investigators, though on a condition that his statements be confidential.
The U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, countered that Andrew's lawyers were misleading the public about his willingness to cooperate.
U.S. prosecutors reportedly made a formal request through the British government to interview Andrew.
Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein called that a “last resort” maneuver, but noted that even if it is granted Andrew isn’t required to answer investigators’ questions and could invoke rights against self-incrimination, like anyone.
An attorney for numerous Epstein victims, Brad Edwards, said he had also failed to persuade the prince to answer questions as part of several civil lawsuits.
“We have received correspondence that there were other loops and hoops we’d have to jump through in order to ever get him to sit for a deposition — and that even then it would be highly unlikely,” Edwards said. “I’ve always been given the impression that, whether he has immunity or not, he certainly behaves like he does.”
“I haven’t really understood the game he’s played,” said Edwards, author of a new book about Epstein’s case. “It’s time to come over and just tell everybody what you know and answer all of the questions and move on. There’s no denying you have information to give and you’ve failed to give it.”
Last fall, Andrew told the BBC he doesn’t remember Giuffre. Of sex with her, he said flatly: “It didn’t happen.” He acknowledged staying at Epstein’s residences and seeing him once or twice annually.
After the interview was widely panned by critics who said Andrew seemed insensitive to Epstein's victims, the prince quit royal duties.
Longtime civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby called Andrew's performance “a disaster.”
“Anybody who wondered as to whether or not it's best for him to cooperate and just put this behind him changed their view after watching him on television. I mean, there’s a reason why the guy is seen and not heard,” he said.
Besides, Kuby added, “The British government is just not going to allow this to happen. It’s bad publicity.”
Experts say the prince could theoretically be prosecuted in the United States, if he was found to have committed a crime, but there are no signs the case is headed there.
Among other things, investigators are examining allegations that Epstein's longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of a deceased British publishing magnate, helped recruit young girls to give Epstein massages that led to sex.
In 2011, Maxwell called the allegations “abhorrent and entirely untrue."
Associated Press writer Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that the name of an ex-federal prosecutor quoted is Rob Feitel, not Ron Feitel.