Ghislaine Maxwell, the jetsetting socialite who once hung out with royals, presidents and billionaires, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for helping financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.
“A substantial sentence will send an unmistakable signal that those engaged in the sexual abuse and trafficking of child victims will be held accountable by the law,” US District Judge Alison J. Nathan said while reading the verdict.
“The rule of law demands, and this court agrees, that whether you are rich or powerful or totally unknown, no one is above the law.”
In December, a jury convicted Maxwell of sex trafficking, transporting a minor to engage in illegal sex acts, and two charges of conspiracy.
“Maxwell’s behavior was shockingly predatory. She was a calculating, sophisticated and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and prepared them for sexual abuse,” the prosecutors wrote in a lawsuit.
Maxwell denies having abused anyone.
Earlier on Tuesday, she was brought into a New York courtroom in a prison uniform and with her ankles handcuffed to await her sentence.
The sentence is about half the term of 30 to 55 years demanded by federal prosecutors. Defense lawyers want a five-year term for the Briton.
‘I’ve been praying for this moment for so long’
The New York conviction is the culmination of a prosecution that details how the power couple showed off their wealth and prominent connections to lure vulnerable girls as young as 14 and then exploit them.
The hearing lasted so long that Nathan asked for a half-hour lunch break, which is unusual for such procedures.
The first to speak were five women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein with Maxwell’s help, followed by Maxwell himself.
Annie Farmer, who identified herself in court by her real name after speaking out publicly, said in her statement that “I wanted to erase from my mind the crimes that Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein had committed against me and just didn’t happen.”
Farmer asked the judge to consider the “systemic effects of the crimes she committed” and the fact that she never admitted her role in the abuse.
“Given the shame and doubt these injuries had already caused, this all felt like a re-traumatization — one that could have been easily avoided if she had told the truth,” Farmer said.
Dressed in a blue prison uniform and white mask to comply with coronavirus rules, Maxwell sat quietly for the first hour of the hearing as lawyers debated the law.
Several women who testified or made statements against Maxwell before the conviction were also in court.
Prosecutors said Epstein, who committed suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial, was sexually assaulted hundreds of times over more than a decade, and could not have done so without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion and former girlfriend.
Maxwell’s defense team instead put the blame on Epstein.
“The witnesses at the trial testified about Ms. Maxwell’s facilitation of Epstein’s abuse, but Epstein was always the central figure: Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the main abuser, and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal satisfaction,” attorneys wrote. in a court of law. Submit.
Famous connections abused to impress victims
Epstein and Maxwell’s associations with some of the world’s most famous people weren’t a prominent part of the process, but mentions of friends like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Britain’s Prince Andrew showed how the pair exploited their connections to impress. their prey.
Over the past 17 years, dozens of women have accused Epstein of abusing them. Many described Maxwell as a lady who recruited them to give Epstein massages.
However, the trial revolved around accusations made by only a handful of those women.
Four testified that they were abused as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s in Epstein’s mansions in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the Virgin Islands.
Three were identified in court by their first name or pseudonym only to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress, Kate, an ex-model from the UK, and Carolyn, now a mother recovering from drug addiction. Farmer was fourth.
They described how Maxwell enchanted them with talks and gifts, promising that Epstein could use his wealth and connections to fulfill their dreams.
Then, they testified, she led them to give Epstein massages that turned sexual and played it out like normal.
Carolyn testified that she was one of several underprivileged teens living near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s and took an offer to massage him in exchange for $100 bills in what prosecutors described as “a pyramid of abuse.” .
Maxwell arranged everything, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.
Men accused of being part of abuse deny involvement
The allegations against Epstein first came out into the open in 2005. He pleaded guilty to sexual charges in Florida and served 13 months in prison, largely on a work exemption program as part of a deal criticized as lenient. After that, he had to register as a sex offender.
In the years that followed, many women sued Epstein for alleged abuse. One, Virginia Giuffre, claimed that Epstein and Maxwell also pressured her to have sexual hookups with other powerful men, including Prince Andrew.
All those men denied the charges, and Giuffre eventually settled Andrew out of court.
Federal prosecutors in New York have revived the case against Epstein after stories from the Miami Herald in 2018 brought new attention to his crimes. He was arrested in 2019, but committed suicide a month later.
Eleven months after his death, Maxwell was arrested at a New Hampshire estate. She is an American, British and French citizen and has been in a federal prison in New York City ever since, as her lawyers have repeatedly criticized her treatment, saying she was even wrongfully placed under suicide watch days before her sentencing.
Prosecutors say the prison allegations are exaggerated and Maxwell has been treated better than other inmates.
Her attorneys also fought to have her conviction overturned on the grounds of the juror’s misconduct. Days after the verdict, a juror gave media interviews in which he revealed that he had been sexually abused as a child — something he failed to tell the court during the jury selection.
Maxwell’s lawyers said she deserved a new trial. A judge disagreed.
At least eight women filed letters to the judge, describing the sexual abuse they said they endured for meeting Maxwell and Epstein.
‘Shift of blame absurd’
In letters to the judge, six of Maxwell’s seven surviving siblings begged for clemency. Maxwell’s fellow inmate has also submitted a letter detailing how Maxwell has helped train other inmates over the past two years.
Anne Holve and Philip Maxwell, her oldest siblings, wrote that her relationship with Epstein began shortly after the death of their father, British newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell, in 1991.
They said Robert Maxwell had subjected his daughter to “frequent rapid mood swings, massive rages and rejections.”
“This led to her becoming very vulnerable to abusive and powerful men who could take advantage of her innate good nature,” they wrote.
Prosecutors called Maxwell’s shift of blame to Epstein “absurd and offensive.”
“Maxwell was an adult who made her own choices,” they wrote to the court. “She made the choice to sexually exploit countless underage girls.”
“She made the choice to work with Epstein for years, working as partners in crime and inflicting devastating harm on vulnerable victims. She must be held accountable for her disturbing role in a vast child exploitation program.”