Ghislaine Maxwell, the jet-setting socialite who once consorted with royals, presidents and billionaires, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for helping the financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.
The stiff sentence was the punctuation mark on a trial that explored the sordid rituals of a predator power couple who courted the rich and famous as they lured vulnerable girls as young as 14, and then exploited them.
Prosecutors said Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial, sexually abused children hundreds of times over more than a decade, and couldn’t have done so without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion and onetime girlfriend who they said sometimes also participated in the abuse. In December, a jury convicted Maxwell of sex trafficking, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and two conspiracy charges.
US District Judge Alison J. Nathan, who also imposed a $750,000 fine, says “a very significant sentence is necessary” and that she wanted to send an “unmistakable message” that these kinds of crimes would be punished. Prosecutors had asked the judge to give her 30 to 55 years in prison, while the 60-year-old Maxwell’s defense sought a lenient sentence of just five years.
Maxwell, wearing a blue prison uniform and a white mask to conform with coronavirus rules, looked to one side as the sentence was announced, but otherwise did not react.
“We will continue to live with the harm she caused us,” says Annie Farmer, one of the four accusers who testified against Maxwell at trial, inside the courtroom before the sentencing.
When she had a chance to speak, Maxwell says she empathized with the survivors and that it was her “greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein.” Maxwell calls him “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life,” echoing her defense attorneys’ assertions that Epstein was the true mastermind.
Maxwell, who denies abusing anyone, says she hoped that her conviction and her “unusual incarceration” bring some “measure of peace and finality.”
Nathan refuses to let Maxwell escape culpability, making clear that Maxwell was being punished for her own actions, not Epstein’s. She called the crimes “heinous and predatory” and said Maxwell as a sophisticated adult woman provided the veneer of safety as she “normalized” sexual abuse through her involvement, encouragement and instruction.