Ghislaine Maxwell, the former British socialite who was found guilty of conspiring with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to exploit underage girls sexually, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday.
Judge Alison J. Nathan of a federal district court in Manhattan said Maxwell played a pivotal role in the decades-long scheme to help Epstein sexually abuse underage girls as young as 14.
“The damage done to these young girls was incalculable,” the judge said. She also imposed a $750,000 fine against Maxwell and ordered her to serve five years of supervised release after her prison term.
While preparing to deliver her sentence, Judge Nathan said that “Maxwell directly and repeatedly and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme” to traffic and abuse girls.
“Maxwell worked with Epstein to select young victims who were vulnerable,” the judge said, adding that a “substantial sentence” is warranted.
The Lower Manhattan courthouse where Maxwell was sentenced was packed with onlookers and journalists. Maxwell spoke to the courthouse before being sentenced, saying Epstein was her boyfriend, but he was manipulative, cunning, controlling, and had everyone in his life fooled.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell said while standing shackled. “Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you.”
She also acknowledged “the pain and anguish” of the victims but stopped short of apologizing.
Maxwell, 60, was born in France and is the daughter of publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. Her childhood was marred by family tragedy and her father’s corporal punishment, her lawyers said in court documents.
Prosecutors said she met Epstein in the early 1990s and was his girlfriend for years, regularly traveling on his private planes and interacting with his wealthy associates. Maxwell also supervised Epstein’s households, according to testimony.
Maxwell was arrested in the summer of 2020 and has been in a federal jail since then. Epstein died in a federal prison in August 2019 as a result of suicide, according to the New York City medical examiner.
After a trial late last year, Maxwell was convicted on December 29 of five of the six counts she faced, including sex trafficking. The months-long trial featured the government presenting testimony and evidence.
Four women testified during the trial and claimed that from 1994 to 2004, Maxwell recruited girls for Epstein to sexually abuse at his properties in New York, Florida, New Mexico, and elsewhere.
Sarah Ransome testified that she was abused 17 years ago and continues to suffer from the trauma. Maxwell has shown no remorse, she said.
“Sentencing her to the rest of her life in prison will not change her, but it will give other survivors and I a slight sense of justice and help us as we continue to work to recover from the sex-trafficking hell she perpetrated,” Ransome said.
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 30 or more years for Maxwell but still felt the 20-year sentence was justice being served.
“Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law.”
Maxwell’s lawyers had asked for a much shorter sentence, saying that Maxwell was only in this position because she met Epstein. Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Maxwell, argued Tuesday that her crimes had ceased years ago, and she had shown the desire to do good.
“The court should not send her away for the rest of her life,” Sternheim said.
Maxwell’s lawyers have said they will appeal her conviction.
Judge Nathan, who first presided over the trial as a district court judge but now sits on the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said that while Epstein was the central figure in the sexual abuse, Maxwell still was not being punished as his proxy.
“It is important to emphasize that although Epstein was central to this criminal scheme, Ms. Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein or as a proxy for Epstein,” the judge said, calling the crimes “heinous and predatory.”
“She is being punished for the role she played,” she said.