Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell sits with her defense lawyer Christian Everdell during her sentencing hearing.REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 in prison Tuesday for her role in helping powerful pedophile Jeffrey Epstein abuse young girls, capping off a dramatic fall from grace for the British socialite turned-convicted sex-trafficker.
US District Judge Alison Nathan said the sentence of 240 months was “sufficient and not greater than necessary,” for Maxwell, who earlier addressed the court and told victims in a half-hearted apology, “I am sorry for the pain that you experienced.”
As she finally learned her fate, the 60-year-old predator’s face remained inscrutable, and she briefly hugged her attorney before leaving the courtroom, wearing blue jail scrubs, her dark brown locks cut in a bob and her ankles in shackles. She did not speak to her siblings, who were seated in the row behind her.
One of her accusers, Sarah Ransome, who sobbed during the hearing when she detailed the horrors Maxwell and Epstein subjected her to, told reporters outside the courthouse that, “‘I am sorry’ doesn’t cut it.”
“I wish she was sorry when she was forcing me into a room to be raped,” Ransome said. “That’s when I wish she was sorry.”
Prosecutors had asked Nathan to slap Maxwell with at least 30 and up to 55 years in prison, so that her punishment “sends a message that those who conspire with sexual predators will be held responsible for their significant role in these crimes.”
Maxwell’s defense attorneys, meanwhile, had begged for leniency, saying she should get no more than four to five years, while probation officials recommended 20.
Her sentencing marked the end of the federal criminal proceedings against her in the Southern District of New York, where she was brought after her arrest at a sprawling New Hampshire estate in July 2020.
“Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a statement. “This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice.”
Outside the courthouse, Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim said her client would appeal, saying she had been subjected to daily “vilification and mistreatment” and “sentenced to an extremely long term.”
While Maxwell’s lawyers have long claimed she was being unjustly persecuted for Epstein’s crimes, the judge stressed that Maxwell “is not being punished in place of Epstein,” emphasizing she “participated in a horrific scheme” and facilitated “sexual abuse by and with Jeffrey Epstein.”
In addition to the prison term, she also imposed a $750,000 fine on Maxwell, who could potentially get credit for the two years she’s already spent behind bars, or have some of her time shaved off for good behavior.
Her attorneys requested that she serve out her time at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, the low-security women’s lockup that served as the inspiration for Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black.”
The heiress — who spent much of her life hobnobbing with the rich and famous — learned her fate months after she was convicted of grooming and trafficking teenagers for Epstein, a wealthy financier and her onetime boyfriend.
Four women testified at her widely-publicized trial in Manhattan federal court — and two of them and several other accusers also addressed the court Tuesday, calling on the judge to lock Maxwell up and throw away the key.
“The number of people harmed is impossible to measure,” Annie Farmer, who testified at trial, told the court Tuesday, as Maxwell’s shoulders tensed.
Maxwell tried to avoid looking at her victims as they spoke, but she did lock eyes with Ransome when she ended her speech by telling the disgraced socialite, “You broke me in unfathomable ways. But you didn’t break my spirit nor did you dampen my internal flame that now burns brighter than ever before.”
Ransome broke down in tears as she described how she attempted to escape from Epstein’s island by trying to “jump off a cliff into shark-infested waters.”
“Like Hotel California, you could check into the Epstein-Maxwell dungeon of sexual hell, but you could never leave,” she said. “I frequently experience flashbacks and wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares reliving the awful experience.”
She said she twice attempted suicide, and struggled through her testimony in which she said, “I know that only by the grace of God do I continue to live.” Maxwell was “the five-star general of this enormous sex trafficking conspiracy,” Ransome said.
Virginia Giuffre Roberts, who has long accused Maxwell and Epstein of trafficking her to Britain’s Prince Andrew, described Maxwell as “like a wolf in sheep’s clothing” in her letter to the court.
“Ghislaine, you deserve to spend the rest of your life in a jail cell,” she wrote. “You deserve to be trapped in a cage forever, just like you trapped your victims.”
Kate, a former British model who only used her first name and also testified at trial, said Maxwell and Epstein’s victims are “united to bring justice to a common enemy” — a message strengthened by Ransome and another accuser, Elizabeth Stein, entering the courthouse while holding hands.
“No person should be shielded from the consequences of their actions,” Kate said, calling Maxwell a “manipulative and cruel” person who has shown a “lack of remorse … for how she ruined the lives of countless women and children.”
Staring at Maxwell, she said, “Today I can look at Ghislaine and tell her that I became what I am today in spite of her and her efforts to make me feel powerless and insignificant.”
Maxwell, who has denied that she abused anyone, has remained locked up in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center for nearly two years since her bust and throughout her monthlong trial, which ended with her conviction on Dec. 29, 2021.
The disgraced socialite, who has denied that she abused anyone, has remained locked up in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center for nearly two years since her bust and throughout her monthlong trial, which ended with her conviction on Dec. 29, 2021.
Federal prosecutors portrayed Maxwell as a “sophisticated predator” who was inextricably linked to Epstein, including in his pursuit of girls to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004.
“Maxwell was Jeffrey Epstein’s right hand,” Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe said in her closing statement on Dec. 20.
“Maxwell and Epstein were partners,” she said. “They were partners in crime who sexually exploited young girls together.”
Maxwell’s attorneys argued that she was being used as a scapegoat for the government’s inability to prosecute Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019 awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide by the New York’s Medical Examiner’s Office.
During the trial, prosecutors detailed how Maxwell and Epstein, who dated in the 1990s, preyed on poor, vulnerable teens, luring them into their orbit with the promise of cash and adventure.
“Selecting these girls was predatory behavior. Maxwell and Epstein picked vulnerable girls,” Moe said.
One of the victims who testified at trial, a woman who used the pseudonym Carolyn, told jurors she was sexually abused by Epstein more than 100 times beginning when she was 14 years old. She said she was introduced to the duo by Giuffre, and first met them at Epstein’s palatal Palm Beach, Florida, estate.
On the stand, Carolyn recalled the first time she visited the wealthy pervert’s mansion, telling the jury that Maxwell instructed Giuffre, “You can bring her upstairs and show her what to do.”
The teens then massaged Epstein as he lay nude, face down on a table before he turned over and had sex with Giuffre in front of Carolyn, she testified.
Carolyn said she was paid $300 that day – and for every massage she gave Epstein after that.
“Something sexual happened every single time,” she told jurors.
Another victim who testified under the pseudonym Kate told jurors that Maxwell touted her relationships with rich and powerful men, who she met through Epstein and her late father, the corrupt publishing baron Robert Maxwell.
The Oxford-educated heiress “seemed to know everybody,” Kate told the jury.
“She was friends with Prince Andrew, friends with Donald Trump. Sometimes their names would just come up or she would be talking on the phone about them with me present,” Kate said.
These relationships, prosecutors charged, were the reason Maxwell and Epstein got away with their crimes for so long. 327
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That ended with the four accusers, now grown women, testifying against the predator and helping secure her conviction with a unanimous verdict on five of six counts, including the most serious, sex-trafficking, relating to the allegations of Carolyn.
“The defendant never thought that those teenage girls would have the strength to report what happened to them,” Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey told jurors at the close of the trial. “In her eyes, they were just trash.”
“But the defendant didn’t count on those teenage girls growing up into the women who testified at this trial,” Comey said, “women who would be willing to take that stand and tell the truth about what happened.”
In her speech to the judge, Maxwell spoke with poise and said that “my association with Epstein and this case will forever and permanently stain me.” While she expressed remorse that that the victims experienced pain, she did not acknowledge her responsibility or relay much emotion.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” she said, calling her former partner-in-crime “manipulative, cunning and controlling.”
“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here,” she said “It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom and all those outside the courtroom that this day brings a terrible chapter to an end.
“I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you closure.”
Additional reporting by M’Niyah Lynn