Ms. Maxwell, who was convicted of conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, groom and abuse underage girls, will spend much of the rest of her life in prison.
Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite who conspired with Jeffrey Epstein over a decade to sexually exploit and abuse underage girls, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday, a punishment that means she could spend much of the rest of her life in prison.
The sentence, while severe, was shorter than the government had recommended. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 30 years. If the conviction is upheld, Ms. Maxwell, with time potentially deducted for good behavior and credit for the two years she has spent in jail, could leave prison in her late 70s
Ms. Maxwell, 60, the daughter of the British media magnate Robert Maxwell, was convicted on Dec. 29 of sex trafficking and other counts after a monthlong trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The government presented testimony and other evidence at Ms. Maxwell’s trial depicting her as a sophisticated predator who “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused by Epstein,” as prosecutors wrote to Judge Alison J. Nathan last week.
“Years of sexual abuse, multiple victims, devastating psychological harm: none of this could have happened without Maxwell,” the prosecutors said.
Ms. Maxwell’s trial was widely seen as the reckoning that Mr. Epstein, 66, never had. The disgraced financier hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell one month after his July 2019 arrest as he awaited his own trial on sex trafficking charges.
Ms. Maxwell had been Mr. Epstein’s boyfriend and longtime companion. She had flown with him on his planes and lived in his mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla., where she was referred to as the “Lady of the House.”
Even in death, Mr. Epstein loomed over Ms. Maxwell’s trial — his name surfaced repeatedly and Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers took every opportunity to separate their client from him.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers, writing to Judge Nathan this month, cited trial testimony about Ms. Maxwell’s “facilitation of Epstein’s abuse,” but argued that “Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification.”
The lawyers claimed the government turned its attention to Ms. Maxwell only after the public uproar following Mr. Epstein’s death while in the custody of the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons. The lawyers argued that the authorities urgently wanted to “appease the renewed distress of Epstein’s accusers and to repair the tarnished reputations of the D.O.J. and B.O.P.”
“There would be no trial for Epstein and no public vindication and justice for his accusers,” the lawyers wrote. “The government now had a huge hole to fill: Epstein’s empty chair.”
The office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in its submission to the judge that Ms. Maxwell had both failed to address her criminal conduct and showed an “utter lack of remorse.”
Ms. Maxwell’s attempt “to cast aspersions on the government for prosecuting her, and her claim that she is being held responsible for Epstein’s crimes, are both absurd and offensive,” the prosecutors wrote.
“Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can,” they said.
The prosecution offered its evidence through 24 witnesses over 10 days in a case that centered on four accusers, now adults. Two of the women said Mr. Epstein engaged in sex acts with them starting when they were 14 years old. One said Ms. Maxwell was sometimes present in the encounters, and the other said Ms. Maxwell directly molested her by touching her breasts.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers have said she will appeal her conviction.
In imposing a $750,000 fine, the judge noted that Ms. Maxwell has received a bequest of $10 million from Jeffrey Epstein. But Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, said that Ms. Maxwell has not received the money from the bequest and does not expect to. The judge replied that she still has reason to believe that Maxwell has the means to pay the fine.
by Colin Moynihan
Featured Image Credit/Caption: Ghislaine Maxwell faced charges of sex trafficking, conspiracy and transportation of a minor for illegal sexual activity. Credit…United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images