Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 in prison Tuesday for her role in helping powerful pedophile Jeffrey Epstein abuse young girls, capping off a dramatic fall from grace for the British socialite turned-convicted sex-trafficker.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December 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 related counts of conspiracy. She was acquitted on one charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
The British socialite will be sentenced on only three counts after Judge Alison Nathan agreed that two of the conspiracy counts she faced were repetitive.
Prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence Maxwell to 30 to 55 years in prison, which is on par with federal sentencing guidelines, though the probation department recommended 20 years.
Maxwell’s attorneys requested a more lenient sentence of between 4.25 and 5.25 years in prison, calling it a “travesty of justice” if Maxwell faces a sentence more appropriate for Epstein himself.
Prior to the sentence, a number of victim impact statements will be read to the court. The judge granted requests from eight women to give victim impact statements either in writing or in person at the sentencing.
The sentencing represents a pivotal moment in an international sex trafficking case that stretched over decades and exemplified the ways that the rich and powerful can avoid consequences for their actions.
Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later.
Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and longtime associate, has been detained since her arrest in July 2020. Her attorneys say her time behind bars has been a “disproportionate pre-sentence punishment” that will not end now that she’s housed with the general population.
“Ms. Maxwell has already experienced hard time during detention under conditions far more onerous and punitive than any experienced by a typical pretrial detainee, and she is preparing to spend significantly more time behind bars,” Maxwell’s attorneys said in their sentencing recommendation. “Her life has been ruined. Since Epstein’s death, her life has been threatened and death threats continue while she is incarcerated.”
Prosecutors disputed Maxwell’s claims of maltreatment at the Metropolitan Detention Center. They said in their sentencing recommendation that Maxwell has “enjoyed remarkable privileges as a high-profile inmate that vastly exceed the benefits accorded to the average inmate,” including access to a private shower, television, desktop computer, laptop and her own space to spend time outside of her cell.
Officials at the Brooklyn detention facility where Maxwell is being housed said she was placed on suicide watch over the weekend after they grew concerned she was at “heightened risk of self-harm” ahead of her sentencing.
Prosecutors said Maxwell refused to answer questions from psychology staff about why she fears for her safety but did tell staff she was not suicidal. Prosecutors said the warden told them she would remain on suicide watch until she is “no longer at heightened risk of self-harm.”
A fellow inmate wrote a letter to the judge praising Maxwell’s positive interactions with other prisoners and her volunteer work teaching yoga and helping inmates obtain their GED diploma.
“It’s important to know that there are also positive opinions, some of which are among inmates in the unit,” the inmate said in her letter.