Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison for helping wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.
Ghislaine Maxwell, the jet-setting socialite who once hung out with royals, presidents, and billionaires, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein in sexually abusing underage girls.
The harsh sentence was a victory for a group of women who fought for justice for years after a previous generation of prosecutors failed to prosecute the predatory power couple.
Epstein, who committed suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial, sexually abused children hundreds of times over a decade, exploiting vulnerable girls as young as 14. Prosecutors said he could not have done this without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion.
Maxwell, dressed in a blue prison uniform and white mask to comply with coronavirus rules, looked to the side when the verdict was announced but declined to comment. She was wearing leg cuffs that rattled as she walked into the courtroom.
Help for survivors
The sentence was shorter than the time the prosecutors had demanded, but Epstein’s prosecutors still expressed relief.
“It’s been an incredibly long road to justice for myself and many other survivors,” said Sarah Ransome, one of Epstein’s prosecutors. “This is for the girls who had nothing to say, the ones who weren’t there.”
A jury convicted Maxwell, 60, in December of sex trafficking, transporting a minor to engage in illegal sex acts, and two charges of conspiracy.
Judge Alison J. Nathan noted that Maxwell never expressed remorse for her crimes as she imposed the jail term and a $750,000 fine. The judge said she wanted the sentence to send an “unmistakable message” that no one was above the law.
Speaking to the court earlier, Maxwell stood by a podium and said she sympathized with the survivors and hoped her sentence would bring them peace. But she admitted no guilt and blamed Epstein for the abuse, saying meeting him was the “biggest regret of my life”.
She called him “a manipulative, cunning, and controlling man who led a deeply compartmentalized life.”
The judge said Maxwell was punished for her “heinous and predatory” crimes, not Epstein’s. She criticized Maxwell’s “pattern of deflection and guilt.”
Four survivors of the sentencing described their sexual abuse, including Annie Farmer, who was momentarily overcome with emotion as she addressed the judge.
She said she and her sister tried to get their stories of abuse at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell public two decades ago, only to be sidelined by the powerful couple through threats and influence with authorities.
“We will continue to live with the damage she has done to us,” Farmer said.
Maxwell won’t give up a legal battle.
In a courtroom full of reporters, three of Maxwell’s siblings sat in a row behind her. Kevin Maxwell said his sister will not give up her legal battle outside the courthouse, “and we as a family will stand behind her.”
Attorney Bobbi Sternheim promised to appeal. She said Epstein left Maxwell “with the whole bag in his hand”.
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped responsibility, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain, and received the punishment he deserved,” she said.
The Epstein Case
Over the past 17 years, dozens of women have accused Epstein of abusing them, with many describing Maxwell as the lady who recruited them.
The charges against Epstein first surfaced in 2005. The FBI and local police at the time had gathered evidence of sexual misconduct involving many underage girls.
But under a deal with federal and state prosecutors in Florida, later criticized as lenient, Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges involving only one girl and served 13 months in prison, much of it in a job release program. 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 Britain’s 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 has since been imprisoned in a federal facility in New York City.
Epstein and Maxwell’s associations with some of the world’s most famous people weren’t a prominent part of her process but mentions from friends like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump showed the pair exploiting their connections to impress their prey.
The trial revolved around allegations from only a handful of Epstein’s accusers. Four testified that they were abused as teenagers in the 1990s and early 2000s at 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. The fourth was Farmer, the only prosecutor to identify herself by her real name in court after speaking out publicly.
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.
Accused of juror misconduct
Maxwell’s attorneys have fought to have her conviction overturned for 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.
During Maxwell’s hearing on Tuesday, the judge sat quietly among other spectators. At least eight women submitted letters to the judge, describing the sexual abuse they said they had endured.
Anne Holve and Philip Maxwell, her oldest siblings, wrote to the court asking for leniency, saying their sister’s relationship with Epstein began shortly after the death of their father, British newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell, in 1991.
Robert Maxwell, they wrote, subjected his daughter to “frequent rapid mood swings, enormous fits of anger and rejection,” which “made her very vulnerable to abusive and powerful men who could take advantage of her innate good nature.”
Ransome – a prosecutor whose charges were not included in the trial – testified about the lasting damage to her life, looking straight at Maxwell several times.
“You broke me in unfathomable ways,” said Ransome, who twice tried to die by suicide. “But you didn’t break my spirit.”