The British socialite and close confidante to Epstein was convicted in December on federal sex trafficking charges for luring underage girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein.
On Tuesday morning, Maxwell was brought into the courtroom in ankle shackles where judge Alison J. Nathan said, “I find that the defendant’s criminal activity was extensive,” according to the New York Times. The judge later said, “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 called the crimes “heinous and predatory.”
Moments before she was sentenced, Maxwell apologized to the victims for the “pain” they experienced. “It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom and to all those outside this courtroom that this day brings a terrible chapter to the end, to an end,” Maxwell said in court. “And to those of you who spoke here today and those of you who did not, may this day help you travel from darkness into the light.”
Numerous victim impact statements were made ahead of the sentencing, including from one of Epstein’s most prominent accusers, Virginia Giuffre, whose lawyer read her statement, addressed to Maxwell.
“I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible pedophile. But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you,” Giuffre’s statement read. “Ghislaine, you deserve to spend the rest of your life in a jail cell. You deserve to be trapped in a cage forever, just like you trapped your victims.”
Annie Farmer, who testified that Epstein and Maxwell lured her to Epstein’s ranch when she was 16 years old in 1996, told the court, “Maxwell had many opportunities to come clean… but instead continued to make choices that caused more harm.” Another victim, Kate, who had testified that she met Maxwell when she was 17 years old, also addressed the court.
Maxwell spoke ahead of the sentencing, telling the judge, “Your honor, it is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain and anguish expressed in the statements made here today. The terrible impact on the lives of so many women is difficult to hear and even more difficult to absorb, both in its scale and in its extent.”
“I believe that Jeffrey Epstein was a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life and fooled all of those in his orbit,” Maxwell said to the judge.
Prosecutors had asked the judge for 30 years to 55 years, which is the legal maximum, requesting Maxwell receive at least 30 years. Maxwell’s defense asked for roughly four to five years, arguing that a lengthier term would be more on par for Epstein himself.
In hopes of a lighter punishment, Maxwell blamed her actions on her upbringing, telling the judge in a memo weeks before the sentencing that her privileged yet troubled childhood made her vulnerable to Epstein.
The sentencing comes almost exactly two years after Maxwell was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire in July 2020, nearly a year after Epstein died by hanging in his jail cell in August 2019. Prior to his death, Epstein had been arrested on charges of running a sex-trafficking operation that involved dozens of teens, some as young as 14.
Maxwell was brought to trial last year to face charges that she conspired with Epstein to recruit, groom and abuse underage girls. The trial lasted nearly a month in federal court in Manhattan, and included testimony from four women who alleged she recruited them into having sex with Epstein in the 1990s and early 2000s. She was convicted on five of six counts against her, including sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts related to conspiracy, and was acquitted on one charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. She was only sentenced, however, on three counts, after the judge said two of the conspiracy counts were repetitive.
Maxwell has been the subject of many Hollywood docs, including Starz’s recent three-part documentary “Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?” which explores Maxwell’s life, and “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell,” a docuseries from Peacock. The Epstein story has dominated headlines for years, and the sex trafficking scandal has spurred many projects throughout the #MeToo movement. In 2020, Netflix launched the miniseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.” That same year, Lifetime aired “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein,” a documentary that centered around the survivors of Epstein and Maxwell.
On Tuesday, one of the executive producers behind Lifetime’s “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” reacted to Maxwell’s verdict. Robert Friedman, CEO of Bungalow Media+Entertainment, tells Variety, “No sentence will ever undue the injustice that resulted from the crimes that she was committed of. If this brings any closure to the survivors, it was worth their time and effort to stay involved.”