The one-time jet-setting procurer of young girls for depraved pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his smarmy companions, Ghislaine Maxwell, gets a 20-year sentence for sex trafficking.
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 part-time girlfriend. 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, said “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 Maxwell’s defense sought a lenient sentence of just five years. Prosecutors recently pled for leniency for Maxwell, stating that childhood abuse made her easy prey to fall into the clutches of Epstein.
Maxwell, wearing a blue prison uniform and a white mask to conform with coronavirus rules, sat quietly before the sentencing, looking vacantly ahead as Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe recounted how Maxwell subjected girls to “horrifying nightmares” by taking them to become the playthings of the now nefarious Epstein.
“They were partners in crime together, and they molested these kids together,” she said, calling Maxwell “a person who was indifferent to the suffering of other human beings.”
When she was given the opportunity to speak, Maxwell said she empathized with the survivors and that it was the “greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein.” Maxwell called him “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life,” echoing her defense attorneys’ assertions, in court filings calling for a lenient sentence, that Epstein was the true mastermind.
Maxwell continues to deny abusing anyone.
Several survivors described their sexual abuse, including Annie Farmer, whose voice cracked several times as she said, “we will continue to live with the harm she caused us.”
Farmer said her sister and herself tried to go public with their stories about Epstein and Maxwell two decades ago, only to be shut down by the powerful couple through threats and influence with authorities.
Inside the crowded courtroom, three of Maxwell’s siblings sat in a row behind her. Most of the others in attendance were members of the media.
Over the past 17 years, scores of women have accused Epstein of abusing them. Many described Maxwell as acting as a madam who recruited them to give massages to Epstein.
Maxwell’s trial, though, her conviction and subsequent sentencing revolved around allegations from only a handful of those women.
In her closing remarks, Maxwell acknowledged that she had been convicted in the sex trafficking scheme but stopped short of taking responsibility.
“I am sorry for the pain that you’ve experienced,” Maxwell said. “I hope my conviction … brings you closure.”
Maxwell and her attorneys have long said that her arrest, mistreatment, and now conviction were because the public and the justice system needed a scapegoat now that Epstein was gone.
However, Judge Alison Nathan was quick to dismiss any such assertions saying, “Miss Maxwell is not punished in place of Epstein. “Miss Maxwell is being punished for the role that she played.”
However, defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said Maxwell planned to appeal the conviction and, as she did during the trial, pushed the blame onto Epstein.
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped accountability, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment he truly deserved,” Sternheim said. “Jeffrey Epstein left Ghislaine Maxwell holding the whole bag.”