First came the allegations late last year that Britain's Prince Andrew and a prominent American lawyer took part in a wealthy sex offender's abuse of teenage girls aboard private jets, in luxury homes and on the financier's Caribbean island.
The story, part of a long-running U.S. legal fight focused on the rights of the women, gained steam when Buckingham Palace took the unusual step of issuing a carefully worded denial of the kind of salacious claims that royal officials rarely acknowledge. Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who represented the highly connected Jeffrey Epstein and was himself named in the latest court filings, then called the most outspoken of the four women a serial liar and practically dared her to prove her accounts.
Instead of letting the case play out from there, the woman known as Jane Doe No. 3 hit back with a 23-page affidavit detailing dates, locations and more about the powerful men she says Epstein forced her and the others to satisfy.
More than six years after Epstein pleaded guilty to Florida charges involving sex with underage girls, the case has erupted anew. Even Bill Clinton's name has resurfaced as a guest of Epstein's, although no one has accused the former president of impropriety. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment Friday.
Dershowitz has accused Jane Doe No. 3 of making up most or all of her claims, including a story about seeing Clinton on Epstein's island years ago.
Jane Doe No. 3 and three others who say Epstein victimized them want a federal judge to make public and throw out the part of Epstein's plea deal that guaranteed that neither he nor any co-conspirators would face federal charges. Federal prosecutors oppose the request, contending they did their best to confer with the victims but that the women aren't entitled to details of the plea negotiations.
Even if the judge rules for the women, the U.S. Justice Department wouldn't necessarily have to bring a case against Epstein. But opening the "non-prosecution agreement" could bring further embarrassment for Epstein and his high-profile friends, and provide the women with leverage as they seek damages from the U.S. government. They contend their rights as victims were trampled by the then-secret agreement.
Epstein, 62, served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence in the state case and was required to register as a sex offender. He also reached undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of women who made similar allegations against him, according to court documents.
Before he was prosecuted, Epstein was a well-known member of the super-wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, Florida, where he frequented Donald Trump's exclusive seaside Mar-a-Lago club.
"He was certainly a man about town and because of the fact that it is a small island, he got to know a lot of people," Trump, who has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, told The Associated Press recently. "When I started reading about the different things and then things were proven, that's a different planet, that's a different world."
Although Epstein's connections with the rich and powerful have been well chronicled over the years, Jane Doe No. 3 is the first to provide specific details, in a public court filing under oath, about her purported sexual encounters with some of them.
Epstein's celebrity lawyer, Roy Black, accuses Jane Doe No. 3's attorneys of trying to inflame the case and wants the judge to keep the plea documents private.
Although Jane Doe No. 3's true name has been published elsewhere, The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes without their consent. One of her attorneys, Brad Edwards, said in an email she does not wish to be named.
Now a 31-year-old wife and mother, Jane Doe No. 3 insists her motives are to hold the elite accountable.
"These powerful people seem to think that they don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else. That is wrong," she said in the affidavit. "I hope that by coming forward, I can help expose the problem of sex trafficking and prevent the same sort of abuse and degradation that happened to me from happening to other girls."
Jane Doe No. 3 says she first met Epstein in 1999 through one of his associates at age 15. What followed was a three-year whirlwind of paid sex abuse, international travel and encounters with many of Epstein's powerful friends, according to Jane Doe No. 3.
"I was trained to be everything a man wanted me to be," she said in her affidavit. "They said they loved that I was very compliant and knew how to keep my mouth shut."
Although she was paid for her services and was given luxurious accommodations by Epstein, Jane Doe No. 3 said, it was also clear she could get into "big trouble" if she tried to leave or refuse his sexual advances and requirements to provide sex to others.
"He let me know that he knew many people in high places," she said. "Speaking about himself, he said, 'I can get away' with things. I was very scared, particularly since I was a teenager."
It was in London in early 2001, when she was 17, Jane Doe No. 3 said, that she said she first met Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II also known as the Duke of York. Epstein wanted her to "exceed everything I had been taught" and make sure the prince got anything he wanted, according to her.
That night, she said, they went to dinner and a nightspot called "Club Tramp" in London, then had sex in the townhome of an Epstein associate. She said Epstein paid her $15,000.
The court documents include a photo of a smiling Prince Andrew with his arm around the waist of Jane Doe No. 3 at the townhome.
She claims she had sex with Andrew later in spring 2001 at Epstein's New York mansion and a third time at an orgy involving other girls, most of whom sounded like they were from Eastern Europe and who all looked under 18, at Epstein's island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Andrew and Buckingham Palace have emphatically denied that the prince had sex illegally with any underage girl. If Jane Doe No. 3's story is true, the differing age of consent laws in Britain and the U.S. could make it a close call whether any crime was committed.
Jane Doe No. 3 contends she also had sex with Dershowitz at least six times beginning when she was age 16 at various properties owned by Epstein.
Not true, says Dershowitz, a TV commentator and former Harvard Law School professor best known for defending O.J. Simpson in the football Hall of Famer's murder case.
"Never under any circumstances have I ever had sexual contact of any kind, which includes massages or any physical contact whatsoever, with Jane Doe No. 3," Dershowitz said in a sworn statement.
It's far from clear when or how the legal fight between the Jane Does and the U.S. Justice Department over Epstein's plea deal will end. Last year, a federal appeals court sided with the women in ruling that victims are entitled to be informed about how a plea agreement is reached.
Those details remain under wraps for now.
Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky in West Palm Beach contributed to this report.
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