Ghislaine Maxwell Sentenced by US Judge for 20 Years as Part of Epstein Sex Trafficking Ring
Date: June 30, 2022
A court sketch of Ghislaine Maxwell attending her sentencing hearing in New York
28 JUNE 2022 – Ghislaine Maxwell said meeting Jeffrey Epstein was the “biggest regret” of her life as a judge sentenced the disgraced British socialite to 20 years in prison for her role in a “horrific scheme” to abuse underage girls.
Approaching the New York courtroom podium with shackles around her feet, Maxwell told victims gathered in the public gallery that she was “sorry” for the pain that Epstein’s sexual abuse had caused and hoped her imprisonment would bring them “some measure of peace and finality.”
However, she refused to take responsibility, saying her former partner Epstein was a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who had “fooled all of those in his orbit.”
“Despite the positive things I have done in my life, I know my association with Epstein will forever stain me,” Maxwell, 60, said in a clipped English accent, speaking at length for the first time since her 2020 arrest. “Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before you.”
Sarah Ransome, a British victim of Epstein and Maxwell, sobbed in the gallery and shook her head incredulously as Maxwell made her surprise last-minute bid for leniency.
After listening to appeals from the defence and prosecution on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan handed down a sentence of 240 months, which was above the guidelines, and a fine of $750,000, as she said Maxwell had failed to show remorse.
“She showed a pattern of deflection of blame,” said the judge. “She talked about the pain and anguish her victims had suffered. That was important. What wasn’t expressed was any responsibility.”
Maxwell’s lawyers had pleaded for a light sentence, arguing that Maxwell was first a victim of her father and secondly a victim of Epstein, who took his own life in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial.
‘The damage she did to these girls is incalculable’
“Let me be clear,” said Judge Nathan dismissing the calls, “Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein. She is not his proxy. She was instrumental in the abuse and the damage she did to these girls is incalculable.”
She said the sentence should serve as a warning that “whether you are rich or poor, no one is above the law.”
While severe, the sentence was shorter than the US Government had recommended. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 30 years. Maxwell, with time potentially deducted for good behaviour and credit for the two years she has spent in jail, could leave prison in her late 70s.
The defence appealed to the judge to recommend Maxwell serve out her sentence at the medium-security women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut, and be allowed to enrol in a psychiatric programme to address “familial trauma”. They said they planned to appeal.
Maxwell’s victims packed the court on Tuesday, testifying one after another to her “relentless and insatiable drive to meet the sexual needs of Epstein” and spoke of their “re-traumatisation” over having to give evidence during the trial.
Maxwell refused to acknowledge the women as they each took to the stand, instead staring straight ahead and taking sips from her water.
Some broke down in tears as they detailed how they suffered, and continue to suffer, from their abuse.
Ms Ransome, a British victim of Epstein, told the court how Maxwell saw her as “nothing more than a human sex toy,” and revealed that she had twice attempted suicide after being diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
“Maxwell is today the same woman I met almost 20 years ago – incapable of compassion or common human decency,” Ms Ransome said. “Because of her wealth, social status, and connections, she believes herself beyond reproach and above the law. Sentencing her to the rest of her life in prison will not change her, but it will give other survivors and [me] a slight sense of justice.”
‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’
A statement read out for Virginia Giuffre, the Duke of York’s accuser, who declined to travel to New York from her home in Australia, said Maxwell used her “femininity to betray us” like she was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Ms Giuffre, 37, was not included in the four-week federal trial but has become one of the most well-known accusers of Epstein after settling a $12million (£10m) sexual assault case against Prince Andrew.
Annie Farmer, who was sexually abused by Epstein and Maxwell when she was a teenager, said she was happy with the sentence, but described Maxwell’s entreaty as “hollow”.
Maxwell’s siblings Kevin, Isabel and Christine sat emotionless on the front row of the public gallery through the three-hour hearing, receiving only occasional glances from their youngest sister.
Maxwell made a point of apologising to her family for the shame she had brought them. “I acknowledge the pain this case has brought my family,” she said in her address. “It torments me every day.”
The four-week trial alternated between disturbing testimony from sexual abuse victims and illuminating testimony about some of Epstein’s connections to high-profile figures such as former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew. None were alleged to have committed wrongdoing in relation to Maxwell’s indictment.
The sentencing closes a chapter on one of the most notorious sex-trafficking rings in US history. More than 150 women have received compensation from Epstein’s victim fund, while women are still coming forward with allegations of abuse by the pair.
It was one of the most high-profile cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse, often at the hands of wealthy and powerful people.
“Today is not a happy day,” said British victim “Kate”, one of the four accusers to testify at the trial, in her impact statement. “But I stand here with my sisters, bonded by trauma, to set a precedent and say enough is enough.”