New York: Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for carrying out a year-long plot to groom and sexually abuse underage girls with longtime confidant Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, 60, did not testify in her defense during her trial late last year, which ended with her conviction on five counts, including child sex trafficking. But on Tuesday, shortly before the verdict was announced in court, he spoke to the victims.
“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before you all,” Maxwell said from the podium, his legs handcuffed. “This is ultimately not about Epstein. This is about my being judged.”
Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, acknowledged she had been convicted of sex trafficking but did not claim responsibility.
“I’m sorry for the pain you’ve been through,” according to Maxwell. “I hope my conviction… brings you closure.”
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Maxwell to 30 to 55 years in prison, while the parole board recommended 20 years. Maxwell’s attorneys asked for a lesser sentence of between 4.25 and 5.25 years in prison.
Judge Alison Nathan calculated that the sentencing guidelines ranged from 15½ to 19½ years in prison. However, he spoke a rate slightly above that range, noting the disturbing testimonies of the victims and Maxwell’s “direct and repeated involvement in a horrific scheme.”
“Miss Maxwell will not be punished instead of Epstein,” he said. “Miss Maxwell is being punished for the role she played.”
Nathan also said that Maxwell has not accepted responsibility for his role in the crimes, nor has he shown any remorse.
“Today’s sentencing will seek to recognize the damage Ms. Maxwell has caused,” dit Nathan.
The 20-year sentence marks a pivotal moment in an international sex trafficking case that has raged on for decades and illustrates how the rich and powerful can avoid, or at least delay, the consequences of their actions.
Maxwell was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and a $750,000 fine, which her attorney says she cannot pay. The judge said she will be taken to a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.
Epstein, who pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008, was charged with sex trafficking in July 2019 but committed suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell has been in custody since her arrest in July 2020, and prosecutors said she received a two-year sentence credit.
Federal Attorney Damian Williams praised the verdict and thanked the victims for the evidence.
“Today’s sentencing holds Ghislaine Maxwell responsible for committing heinous crimes against children,” he said. “This phrase sends a powerful message that no one is above the law and that it is never too late for justice.”
However, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said that Maxwell planned to appeal the conviction and, as he did during the trial, he blamed Epstein.
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today evaded responsibility, avoided their victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment they truly deserved,” said Sternheim. “Jeffrey Epstein left Ghislaine Maxwell with all the luggage.”
Victim impact statements state that Maxwell facilitated the abuse
Before the sentencing, four women spoke in court to describe the lingering effects of Maxwell and Epstein’s abuse. The judge granted requests from a total of eight women to testify either in writing or in person at the sentencing hearing.
Annie Farmer, one of the victims, asked the judge to consider the lasting effects of Maxwell’s behavior on his victims.
“Judge Nathan, I hope that as we continue to live with the memories, I hope that as we continue to live with the memories we will, as we ponder the appropriate prison sentence for Maxwell’s role in this sex trafficking operation, you will consider the enduring suffering of the many women he abused and exploited.” he hurt us,” she wrote. “I hope they weigh the systemic implications of the crimes she committed – the way ours did Family members, romantic partners and friends have been hurt by our suffering.”
Another victim, identified only as “Kate,” said Maxwell’s “final insult” was her lack of remorse after being found guilty. She said Maxwell was “a manipulative, cruel and inconsiderate person” and could have stopped the abuse.
“You could have put an end to the rape, the abuse and the heinous manipulations that you organized, witnessed and even participated in,” Kate said in court.
Sarah Ransome, another accuser who was not part of that trial, told the court about the effects years of abuse had on her, saying she suffered from alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice.
“I often have flashbacks and wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares reliving the horrific experience,” he said.
Farmer later said she was happy with the 20-year sentence and said she didn’t believe Maxwell’s apology.
“His statement struck me as a very hollow apology,” he said. “She took no responsibility for the crimes she committed and felt once again that she was trying to do something for her own benefit and not for the harm she had caused.”
He also said he appreciated the opportunity to speak in court.
“It actually felt very empowering to finally have the opportunity to speak out and record my voice and say the things that I wanted to say about how his crimes affected me and the people I know and care about , have influenced”, dit Farmer.
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell ?
Born in 1961, the British socialite grew up in the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside and is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a Czech-born newspaper magnate and former British lawmaker who died under mysterious circumstances. The media mogul fell off his luxury yacht, Lady Ghislaine, near the Canary Islands in 1991. Posthumously it became known that he had committed mass pension fraud on his employees.
According to Roy Greenslade, who worked as editor du Daily Mirror for the media mogul in the early 1990s, ‘Maxwell adored Ghislaine in a way he didn’t do with his children’.
“He was a monster dad,” Greenslade recalls. “He treated his whole family very badly.” But when it came to the youngest of her nine children, Maxwell treated her “more leniently than anyone else.”
In his biography of the tycoon, Maxwell: The Rise and Fall of Robert Maxwell and his Empire, Greenslade recalls one particular night when he was sitting in an office with Maxwell and the teenage daredevil walked in. She says Maxwell scolded her daughter for “always taking risks, doing stupid and dangerous things” after she had a near-fatal accident after jumping off a boat.
“She was pretty smart with him,” Greenslade explains, adding that she always spoke well of her father in a way that he found difficult to challenge.
After Ghislaine left, Greenslade says that Maxwell turned to him with a sense of pride in his voice: “She’s just like me.”
That, Greenslade says, indicates why he might favor her more.
A 1991 inquest ruled that Robert Maxwell’s death was due to a heart attack combined with accidental drowning. However, some believe Maxwell’s death was a suicide as his business empire teetered on the brink of ruin.
At the time there was applause for the way Ghislaine dealt with the family tragedy. “People who were there at the time (when Maxwell died) said she handled it shine,” Greenslade said. “Dry eye, good handling of the press.”
After his father’s death, Maxwell reportedly relocated to the United States.
“He’s probably run out of money,” Greenslade says, though many speculate he earned income from a secret trust.
In the United States, Maxwell lived a public life and socialized in exclusive circles, which included those connected with politics.
According to eyewitness accounts, Maxwell was invited to the wedding of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and was even taken backstage at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in 2009. However, Bari Lurie, a spokesman for Chelsea Clinton, says Clinton only knew Maxwell because the socialite he was dating was a friend of his.
Maxwell was photographed alongside Epstein in 2000 with Donald Trump and his future wife Melania Trump.
Maxwell was also featured in the background of the infamous photo de Prince Andrew, which shows him with his arms around a man’s waist. Young woman take Virginia Roberts. Roberts claims Epstein trafficked her with the help of Maxwell, forcing her to have sex with his friends, including Prince Andrew, when she was a minor. The prince has strongly denied having had sex with Roberts, saying he “does not remember the picture being taken”.
In 2012, Maxwell founded a charity, the TerraMar Project, which aims to promote ocean conservation. However, the non-profit organization ceased operations in December 2019, according to UK Companies House records.
That same year, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment accusing Epstein of operating a sex trafficking ring between 2002 and 2005, in which he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him.
What happened at the hearing
Maxwell’s month-long trial last year alternated between disturbing testimonies from sex abuse victims and revealing testimonies about some of Epstein’s ties to high-profile celebrities.
Prosecutors argued that Maxwell and Epstein conspired to set up a scheme to lure girls into having sex with Epstein between 1994 and 2004 in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. Four women proved that during the trial were abused by Epstein and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in the abuse.
Meanwhile, her defense said she was a “scapegoat” for Epstein’s actions and attacked the memories and motivations of women who say they were sexually abused.
The prosecution’s case was based primarily on the testimonies of the four women.
Jane, who took the test under a pseudonym, said Maxwell arranged for sexual massages with Epstein and sometimes engaged in the abuse. The seduction charges, of which Maxwell was acquitted, and the transport relate solely to her testimony.
Carolyn, who took the test using only her first name, said that when she was 14, Maxwell touched her breasts, hips and buttocks and told her she had “a great body for Epstein and his friends.” The allegation of child trafficking, the most serious of all allegations, relates to his testimony.
Kate testified that Maxwell invited her and taught her how to give Epstein a sexual massage. She said Maxwell often spoke to her about sexual matters and asked Kate to invite other young girls to help gratify Epstein’s sexual desires.
Farmer, the only accuser who testified with her full name, said she was 16 when Maxwell massaged her bare chest at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico in 1996.
Although she was convicted on five counts, Maxwell was only convicted on three counts after the judge agreed that two of the conspiracy charges she faced were repeated.
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.