LONDON — As the lurid headlines swirl in the wake of the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, questions again are surging over what comes next for Britain’s Prince Andrew, who is caught up in the high-profile affair.
Maxwell, a British socialite, is behind bars at a detention center in Brooklyn, New York, and is expected to appear in court in New York next Tuesday, having been arrested in New Hampshire last week. She will face charges on four counts in connection with the trafficking of a minor for criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury.
Maxwell, 58, has not entered a plea, but has long denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney declined to comment after her arrest.
Meanwhile, the scandal that has for years dogged Andrew, 60, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, does not appear to be going away.
“It’s a bit of a nightmare at the moment,” British public relations agent Mark Borkowski told NBC News. “He’s inextricably linked with this story, there is no exit strategy.”
Borkowski, who is not working with Andrew but has worked with celebrities including the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson and the comedian Joan Rivers in the past, said much now rests on exactly what Maxwell tells U.S. authorities.
He suggested Andrew should either stay silent or invite U.S. authorities “to come and meet him on home turf” in the United Kingdom and make public that he’s attempting to “take the heat off him” by explaining his relationship with both Epstein and Maxwell.
Andrew has acknowledged that he knew both Epstein and Maxwell, the disgraced financier’s formergirlfriend, but has denied any wrongdoing.
In a widely panned television interview with the BBC in the fall, Andrew said that he had been introduced to Epstein by Maxwell, and that he went to stay with him in New York for four days in 2010. The trip was to break off the friendship, Andrew said, after Epstein served time for soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.
Andrew has also denied allegations that he had any form of sexual contact with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has repeatedly said she was trafficked by Epstein when she was 17 and directed to have sexual relations with the prince.
Andrew said that he had no recollection of ever meeting her — despite a widely circulated photograph showing the pair together.
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Epstein, 66, died by suicide in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors accused the politically connected financier of preying on dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
After his death, prosecutors vowed to continue the investigation and the case brought renewed attention to several high-profile people in Epstein’s orbit, including Andrew.
The royal abruptly stepped down from his public duties after the disastrous BBC interview, saying in a statement that he was willing to help “any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
After Maxwell was arrested Thursday, the acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York told reporters: “I’m not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation. But I would say we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us. We would like to have the benefit of his statement.”
Andrew’s lawyers have previously said that they offered his help as a witness to U.S. authorities on at least three occasions this year, while his team shot back that they were “bewildered” at the Department of Justice’s latest comments.
Because Andrew is only a witness, NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said, U.S. attorneys could not compel him to appear. Although he warned that “someone who may be considered a witness can quickly become a target, depending on what their answers to the questions are.”
He said that U.S. attorneys could travel to the U.K. to interview Andrew but could not compel him to appear.
“If I was defending Prince Andrew, he would never leave the U.K. again, and he would only give carefully vetted written statements,” Cevallos said.
If Andrew does travel to the U.S., Cevallos said that lawyers for Epstein’s victims could see him as a potential civil defendant and serve him with either a subpoena or a lawsuit.
But whether Andrew travels to America may not be entirely up to him.
If he is charged with a crime or sentenced in the U.S., he could face extradition proceedings, although legal experts say this is highly unlikely.
Both politically, because of the relationship between the two countries, and legally, as a member of the royal family, Andrew could be protected by crown or sovereign immunity.
Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at the London-based law firm Howard Kennedy LLP, who represented British cavalry officer James Hewitt after allegations of an affair with Princess Diana, said U.S. authorities were trying to “ensnare” the royal and that it was unlikely he would be extradited to the U.S.
Stephens said the principle of sovereign immunity — which makes certain individuals immune from prosecution — would make it difficult for Andrew to be summoned to the U.S.
If U.S. prosecutors wanted to gather information, they could do so through written testimonies or prosecutors traveling to the U.K. to collect evidence, Stephens said. This was done recently when U.S. authorities came to speak to U.K.-based survivors of the convicted rapist and disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Even if he was extradited to America, Andrew would be under “no obligation to give evidence,” Stephens added. “You can subpoena someone to court, but you can’t force someone to give evidence,” he said, citing an individual’s legal right to silence.
However, Juliet Sorensen, a former federal prosecutor and a professor of law at Northwestern University, said the royal would most likely not be shielded by sovereign immunity.
“Sovereign immunity would not apply to a case in which a sovereign has engaged in criminal activity,” she said. “If somebody is participating in sexual trafficking and exploitation of minors and young women, that has absolutely nothing to do with their duties as a sovereign, so sovereign immunity would not apply.”
Meanwhile, Maxwell remains behind bars after prosecutors said she posed an “extreme” flight risk because of her access to substantial funds and American, French and British passports.
Her arraignment and first court hearing will occur on Tuesday, according to a court order, and will take place online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse,” Strauss, the U.S. attorney, said. “In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”
Andrew’s advisers should be “glued” to any testimony Maxwell gives, says Borkowski, the PR guru, as the case will continue to garner headlines, leaving the prince in the eye of the British media storm.
For now, “there’s nothing much more he can do,” Borkowski counseled.