Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison in her New York sex-trafficking case for procuring teen girls for Jeffrey Epstein for him to abuse. Maxwell, 60, has maintained her innocence.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender and financier whose elite associates once included Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton, was captured by federal authorities in July 2019, on sex-trafficking counts. He killed himself in a New York City federal jail just over one month after his arrest.
Maxwell’s attorneys had pushed for leniency in sentencing, saying that she should receive “well below” the 20 years recommended by federal probation officials. Prosecutors pushed for a sentence of 30 to 55 years in prison.
Maxwell, a former British socialite, was convicted on 29 December of five of the six charges she faced. The jury came to their decision after 40 hours of deliberations spanning six days.
In addition to sex trafficking, Maxwell was convicted of conspiracy to entice individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, conspiracy to transport individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of individuals under the age of 18.
Maxwell was escorted into the courtroom in ankle shackles and throughout the three-hour proceeding, had an unsettled demeanor. She repeatedly touched her hair, sometimes tucking it behind her ears, scratched her neck and sipped water throughout the proceeding.
The former media heiress wore drab gray-blue jail scrubs, and a white undershirt. She turned to look at her three siblings who were seated behind her in court – Isabel, Christine, and Kevin – multiple times.
But Maxwell did not offer much in the way of an apology for her actions. When Maxwell stood at a Plexiglass-enclosed lecture to speak, she said: “I empathize deeply with all of the victims in this case. I also acknowledge that I have been convinced of helping Jeffrey Epstein commit these crimes,” said Maxwell, whose statement marked the first time she has publicly addressed these allegations.
“And despite the many helpful and positive things I have done in my life and will continue to do… I know that my association with Epstein and this case will forever and permanently stain me.”
Maxwell attempted to pin the blame on Epstein.
“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you, he should have stood before you all those years ago, he should have stood before you in 2005, again in 2009, and again in 2019,” Maxwell continued, adding shortly thereafter, “ I am sorry for the pain that you experienced…”
There were four accusers in the trial: Jane, Kate and Carolyn, who did not use their full names during proceedings, as well as Annie Farmer.
Jane said that she was 14 in 1994 when Epstein began to sexually abuse her – and that sometimes Maxwell was present when he did so. Sometimes, Maxwell participated in this abuse, Jane testified. “There were hands everywhere,” Jane said of an incident with Epstein and Maxwell. This abuse also took place when she was 15 and 16.
Kate said that she first met Maxwell in Paris around 1994, at 17. Maxwell asked Kate to tea at her London townhouse shortly thereafter, and then introduced the teen to Epstein at a subsequent meeting.
A few weeks later, Maxwell telephoned Kate, and told her: “Jeffrey was meant to get a massage but the massage therapist had canceled. Could I do her in favor of her and come over… because I had strong hands.
Kate told jurors that Maxwell led her upstairs, where Epstein was in a robe. Maxwell shut the door, leaving Kate alone with Epstein. I have initiated sexual contact with Kate. She saw him several times annually over the next few years.
Carolyn testified that she fell into Maxwell and Epstein’s abusive world around the early 2000s, when she was 14, at his Palm Beach mansion.
Carolyn said she traveled to Epstein’s house “over 100 times” between ages 14 and 18, and recalled a physical encounter with Maxwell while getting a massage table ready.
“I was getting fully nude, and she came in and felt my boobs and my hips and my buttocks and said… that I had a great body for Mr Epstein and his friends. She just said that I had a good body type,” Carolyn testified.
Farmer testified that Maxwell gave her a nude massage when she was aged just 16 at Epstein’s sprawling New Mexico estate. She met Epstein in late 1995, when she went to visit her sister, Maria, in New York City. Maria was an artistic painter for Epstein.
Maxwell’s case was thrown into potential disarray shortly after the verdict. One of the jurors, Scotty David, gave interviews after the trial where he talked about experiencing sexual abuse as a child.
David said that he told his fellow panelists about this so that they could see facts from a victim’s point of view. These statements spurred questions, as potential jurors were queried about any history of abuse during the selection process.
The questionnaire for prospective jurors asked: “Have you or a friend ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual assault?” The prosecution and defense both asked Judge Alison Nathan to investigate; Maxwell’s lawyers asked for a new trial, claiming David should never have sat on the jury.
Nathan called David to testify publicly on 8 March about this omission. David claimed that he was distracted while rushing through the questionnaire, calling his omission an “honest mistake.”
Nathan rejected Maxwell’s request for a new trial based on David’s error, saying she thought his answer was truthful and “would not have been stricken for cause even if he had answered each question on the questionnaire accurately”.