Ghislaine Maxwell will spend 20 years in prison for helping Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom, and abuse girls. On Tuesday, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York handed down the sentence for counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy, and transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, which she was convicted of last December.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Maxwell’s lawyers asked for a lighter sentence than the 20 years recommended by the court’s probation department, citing a difficult upbringing and harsh conditions in jail, where Maxwell, 60, has been held without bail since her arrest on July 2, 2020. The defense also repeated an argument they’d used throughout the monthlong trial that Maxwell was nothing but a scapegoat for Epstein, who died by suicide in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial for his own sex-trafficking charges.
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The prosecution countered with a request for 30 to 55 years based on the harm done to victims, a lack of remorse for her crimes, and the argument that disliking jail time isn’t a valid excuse to get out early. Far from being a patsy for Epstein, they argued, Maxwell was “instrumental” to the abuse and knew what she was doing. “She was a calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse,” the prosecution said in its submission to the judge.
Several accusers submitted victim impact statements in writing ahead of the sentencing: Annie Farmer and a woman using the alias Kate, both of whom testified during the trial, along with Virginia Giuffre, Maria Farmer (Annie’s older sister), Sarah Ransome, Teresa Helm, Juliette Bryant, and Elizabeth Stein.
Over the course of two and a half weeks of the trial in November and December of 2021, prosecutors had presented their case against Maxwell. They called 24 witnesses, including Epstein’s former household staff members and pilots of his private jet, a psychologist to speak about the effects of childhood sexual abuse, and, most memorably four accusers. The four women came from single-parent households and faced struggles in their personal lives which prosecutors said Maxwell and Epstein exploited to target them for abuse: Jane, a soap star, who testified under an alias that she’d met Maxwell and Epstein at 14 while attending summer arts camp in Michigan; Kate, also using an alias, who said at 17 she thought of Maxwell as a friend before Maxwell forced her into a sexualized massage with Epstein; Carolyn, who a friend recruited into Epstein’s ring of abuse but who said Maxwell paid her and booked her massages and at least once touched her naked body; and Annie Farmer, who Maxwell coached in rubbing Epstein’s feet.
Throughout the trial, the defense suggested the accusers had been manipulated by outside forces — or greed — and that their memories did not serve them correctly. Cross-examinations ran for hours as lawyers for Maxwell grilled the women on details of their recollections from the 1990s and early 2000s.
This is a developing story.
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