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Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison

Maxwell, 60, groomed and peddled girls and young women to financier Jeffrey Epstein for at least a decade.

Ghislaine Maxwell, associate of financier Jeffrey Epstein, was sentenced on June 28 in New York to 20 years in prison on sex-trafficking charges. (Video: Reuters)
correction

Earlier versions of this story misstated Ghislaine Maxwell's age. She is 60, not 61.

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for trafficking young sexual abuse victims to financier Jeffrey Epstein, a recognition of her extensive role in recruiting the girls and young women and facilitating their encounters.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan had calculated the federal sentencing guidelines to suggest a 15-to-19-year prison term for Maxwell, 60, who as Epstein’s longtime girlfriend managed an evolving roster of victims to give him daily sexualized massages.

But after hearing from several victims who said they are still affected by the abuse they suffered, and from Maxwell herself, Nathan imposed a two-decade sentence. She said it was “important to note [Maxwell’s] lack of acceptance of responsibility” for the abuse, which occurred between 1994 and 2004.

The judge shot down Maxwell’s repeated claim that she was being punished in lieu of Epstein, who died in a New York City jail cell in 2019 as he awaited his own federal trial.

Maxwell “is not being punished as a proxy for Mr. Epstein or in place of Mr. Epstein,” she said. The former British socialite, Nathan added, “provided an initial veneer of responsibility and even safety” to the victims she recruited, then “normalized” the abuse they experienced.

Maxwell, speaking in measured tone as she read a prepared statement from a lectern at the center of the packed courtroom, told the victims she wanted “to acknowledge their suffering. … I empathize deeply with all of them.”

She also called meeting Epstein “the greatest regret of my life.”

Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for two of the victims, said the lengthy sentence “showed us that individuals can be held accountable irrespective of power and privilege.”

“Today showed us that the chorus of voices of these survivors prevailed and showed accountability,” McCawley added, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse. “It’s really a victorious day for justice.”

Two survivors of convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell spoke outside the courthouse on June 28 prior to Maxwell‘s sentencing proceeding in New York. (Video: Reuters)

Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of trafficking girls for Jeffrey Epstein

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe described Maxwell’s crimes as “an extensive and disturbing child exploitation scheme” and said her conduct showed indifference “to the suffering of other human beings.”

Annie Farmer, who testified at the trial that she trusted Maxwell to be a buffer when Epstein first took an interest in her, said Tuesday that she spent years trying to forget what happened to her as a teen because she felt “significant shame.”

Now in her 40s, Farmer choked up as she told Nathan it was “impossible to measure” the scope of the harm Maxwell and Epstein caused.

Another victim, a British woman who testified under the pseudonym Kate, called Maxwell “a manipulative, cruel and merciless person.” She said she was compelled to speak out against the pair to set an example for her daughter.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Nathan’s sentence offered a measure of accountability for Maxwell’s “perpetrating heinous crimes against children” and sends the message that “it is never too late for justice.”

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to a state charge of procuring a minor for prostitution and served about a year of jail time in Florida, with extensive release privileges. His plea deal later came under scrutiny, following a Miami Herald investigation that documented the extent of his abusive practices.

The years that followed saw lawsuits and new accusations against people in Epstein and Maxwell’s social circle — including Britain’s Prince Andrew, who settled a civil case with Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre earlier this year. The disgraced royal has repeatedly denied having sexual encounters with Giuffre, who alleged that she was trafficked to him by Epstein.

Prince Andrew settles sex abuse lawsuit with woman who says she was trafficked to him by Jeffrey Epstein

Epstein’s federal indictment in New York was viewed as a second chance for his victims to see him face substantial criminal consequences. His jailhouse death, which was ruled a suicide, sparked a Justice Department investigation and prompted dozens of Epstein accusers to say they’d been robbed of justice.

By then, investigators had turned their attention to Maxwell, who had long been rumored to be involved in Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls and young women. She was indicted a year after he died.

Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim, speaking outside the courthouse Tuesday, said her client never got a fair shake and was “vilified” and “pilloried” before she was even arrested. Maxwell is expected to appeal her conviction.

“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, referring to Epstein.

Ghislaine Maxwell trial: Another woman describes being groomed for Epstein

In recent court filings, prosecutors called it “absurd and offensive” that Maxwell believes she’s a scapegoat.

Maxwell found and groomed teenagers to massage Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., home, his Manhattan mansion, his New Mexico ranch and his private island in the Caribbean. The recruits were not professional masseuses and were pressured into engaging in sexual conduct with him during the encounters, according to evidence presented at Maxwell’s trial.

She sought out troubled girls and young women, often from unstable homes, who were enticed by a promise of easy money, prosecutors said.

Maxwell arranged travel and lodging for her recruits, and in some cases had sexual contact with them herself — apparently preparing them for sessions with Epstein for which they were paid hundreds in cash per visit.

Maxwell’s lawyers argued she deserves leniency because she, too, was vulnerable when she met Epstein after her father, Robert Maxwell, a controversial media mogul, died under suspicious circumstances. Maxwell also had a troubled childhood, the lawyers have said, describing years of absentee parenting and family trauma over the death of one of her older brothers.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, they also submitted letters from people listing Maxwell’s positive qualities. A handwritten note from Tatiana Venegas, 31, a fellow inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, describes Maxwell as a friendly person who has volunteered to teach yoga and English to some of her bunkmates.

Maxwell, through her counsel, has lodged frequent complaints about her detention — accusing jail administrators of subjecting her to overly restrictive levels of monitoring and keeping her in solitary confinement, which Maxwell’s attorneys have said was a reaction to the failure of the Bureau of Prisons to keep Epstein alive in custody.

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