Disgraced socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the sex-trafficking ring of young teens she helped financier Jeffrey Epstein run for a decade.
The punishment doled out by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan on Tuesday marks the most concrete punishment yet for the years of abuse Maxwell and Epstein imposed on young girls.
Several of those girls, now adults, testified during the trial, bravely pulling the curtain back on years of abuse they suffered after Maxwell and Epstein tugged them into their orbit. The two often used the allure of wealth and their connections to powerful people such as Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
“Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement tweeted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. “This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice.”
The women were heard again on Tuesday. Eight women sent the court victim impact statements — unredacted, over Maxwell’s objections — describing the long-lasting effects of Maxwell’s crimes. Nathan ruled that six of the victims were also free to speak at the hearing if they chose to.
Prosecutors wanted Maxwell to serve up to 55 years
The U.S. Probation Department recommended a 20-year sentence for Maxwell, based on federal guidelines for crimes that were “heinous and predatory in nature.” But prosecutors sought a sentence between 30 and 55 years, citing the number of victims and Maxwell’s refusal to take responsibility.
Maxwell, 60, was sentenced roughly six months after a jury found her guilty of sex trafficking a minor and other serious felonies. Epstein, who was a convicted sex offender, died in August 2019 at a Manhattan correctional facility. Authorities had arrested him one month earlier. His death was ruled a suicide.
Maxwell asked for a much more lenient sentence of only around five years in prison, saying she’s being punished for her longtime companion’s crimes.
“Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser,” her attorney said in a court filing earlier this month that was notable because it was one of the few instances in which Maxwell acknowledged sexual crimes took place.
Her defense team said Maxwell has “experienced hard time” in the Metropolitan Detention Center where she’s been held, adding that her life has been threatened there. But prosecutors dismissed those claims and cited Maxwell’s “utter lack of remorse” for her actions.
Prosecutors also asked Nathan to impose a $750,000 fine on Maxwell — the maximum allowed for her crimes. But they stopped short of seeking financial restitution, saying the victims who participated in the case have already received money through the Epstein Victim Compensation Program and/or civil settlements.
Maxwell was compensated richly by Epstein, U.S. says
From 1994 to 2004, federal prosecutors say, Maxwell and Epstein “worked together to identify girls, groom them, and then entice them to travel and transport them to Epstein’s properties.” They say the pair often traveled between Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a villa in Palm Beach, a ranch in New Mexico, a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and an apartment in Paris.
In return, they say, Maxwell enjoyed a “lavish lifestyle” in which she was waited on by personal staff.
“Maxwell also received a townhouse that Epstein bought for her in New York City, and Epstein transferred a total of approximately $23 million to Maxwell during the timeframe of the conspiracy,” the sentencing memorandum states.
Prosecutors also said Maxwell “fostered a culture of silence” in Epstein’s properties, instructing household staff to “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing” unless they were asked a direct question.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York did not seek to force Maxwell to forfeit any real estate, saying the crimes in question were committed at Epstein’s properties, not any that Maxwell owned.
8 survivors submitted written victim impact statements
Eight women who say Maxwell manipulated and abused them for years sent victim impact statements for the court to consider in weighing Maxwell’s punishment. Some of them addressed their thoughts to the judge, while others spoke directly to Maxwell.
They include Maria and Annie Farmer — sisters who first came forward in the 1990s, in an attempt to alert authorities that Epstein was a serial sex predator harming girls and young women.
They described how their futures were stolen at a vulnerable age. Several victims said their abusers undermined their faith in themselves and left deep wounds by preying on their youth and innocence.
“This toxic combination of being sexually exposed and exploited, feeling confused and naïve, blaming myself all resulted in significant shame,” Annie Farmer wrote in her statement. “That sickening feeling that makes you want to disappear.”
The victims spoke about locking terrible memories away for years, only to have them resurface during their adult lives. And they described the ongoing burden of fighting for justice against someone who refuses to show remorse.
Victims alleged threats followed years of abuse
Maria Farmer said her future as an artist was ruined by Maxwell and Epstein when she met them in 1996. She also told the judge that she suffers from PTSD from years of abuse and threats.
“She assured me that I could be killed walking down my favorite path in NYC,” Farmer said. “….Her threats have never left my mind and I believe she will harm me if she ever has a way. Please keep this in mind when determining her terms of imprisonment. She is a very dangerous and devious individual.”
Another survivor, Sarah Ransome, said Epstein and Maxwell threatened that her family would be killed if she ever tried to escape what she calls a “dungeon of sexual hell.” Ransome, who fled to the U.K. in 2007, told the judge that she has proof Epstein tried to find her 10 years later.
She also included photos with her statement that she said showed her in the hospital, badly injured after surviving two suicide attempts.
“Simply put, Ghislaine Maxwell is a monster,” another survivor, Juliette Bryant, wrote in her brief statement. As in other statements, Bryant also said she was grateful to see the crimes exposed, with the hope of justice finally found.
Ghislaine Maxwell Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Conspiring With Jeffrey Epstein To Sexually Abuse Minors
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that GHISLANE MAXWELL was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by United States Circuit Judge Alison J. Nathan to 240 months in prison for her role in a scheme to sexual exploit and abuse multiple minor girls with Jeffrey Epstein over the course of a decade. MAXWELL was previously found guilty on December 29, 2021, following a one-month jury trial, of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors to participate in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children. This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice. We again express our gratitude to Epstein and Maxwell’s victims for their courage in coming forward, in testifying at trial, and in sharing their stories as part of today’s sentencing.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment, court documents, and evidence presented at trial:
From at least 1994, up to and including in or about 2004, GHISLAINE MAXWELL assisted, facilitated, and participated in Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to MAXWELL and Epstein to be under the age of 18. The victims were as young as 14 years old when they were groomed and abused by MAXWELL and Epstein, both of whom knew that their victims were in fact minors. As a part and in furtherance of their scheme to abuse minor victims, MAXWELL and Epstein enticed and caused minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residences in different states, which MAXWELL knew and intended would result in their grooming for and subjection to sexual abuse.
MAXWELL enticed and groomed minor girls to be abused in multiple ways. For example, MAXWELL attempted to befriend certain victims by asking them about their lives, their schools, and their families, and taking them to the movies or on shopping trips. MAXWELL also acclimated victims to Epstein’s conduct simply by being present for victim interactions with Epstein, which put victims at ease by providing the assurance and comfort of an adult woman who seemingly approved of Epstein’s behavior. Additionally, Epstein offered to help some victims by paying for travel and/or educational opportunities, and MAXWELL encouraged certain victims to accept Epstein’s assistance. As a result, victims were made to feel indebted and believed that MAXWELL and Epstein were trying to help them. MAXWELL also normalized and facilitated sexual abuse for a victim by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when the victim was undressed, and encouraging the victim to massage Epstein.
As MAXWELL and Epstein intended, these grooming behaviors left minor victims vulnerable and susceptible to sexual abuse by Epstein. MAXWELL was then present for certain sexual encounters between minor victims and Epstein, such as interactions where a minor victim was undressed, and ultimately was present for sex acts perpetrated by Epstein on minor victims. That abuse included sexualized massages during which a minor victim was fully or partially nude, as well as group sexualized massages of Epstein involving a minor victim where MAXWELL was present. In some instances, MAXWELL participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims.
Ultimately minor victims were subjected to sexual abuse that included, among other things, the touching of a victim’s breasts or genitals, placing a sex toy such as a vibrator on a victim’s genitals, directing a victim to touch Epstein while he masturbated, and directing a victim to touch Epstein’s genitals. MAXWELL and Epstein’s victims were groomed or abused at Epstein’s residences in New York, Florida, and New Mexico, as well as MAXWELL’s residence in London, England.
In the earlier phase of the conspiracy, from at least approximately 1994 through approximately 2001, MAXWELL and Epstein identified vulnerable girls, typically from single-mother households and difficult financial circumstances. This earlier phase required the defendant and Epstein to identify one girl at a time to target for grooming and abuse. In the later phase, from approximately 2001 until at least approximately 2004, MAXWELL and Epstein enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit Epstein’s Palm Beach Residence to engage in sex acts with Epstein, after which Epstein, MAXWELL, or another employee of Epstein’s would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash. MAXWELL and Epstein encouraged one or more of those victims to travel with Epstein with the intention that the victim engage in sex acts with Epstein. Moreover, and in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, MAXWELL and Epstein also paid certain victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein. In this way, MAXWELL and Epstein created a network of underage victims for Epstein to sexually exploit.
In addition to the prison sentence, MAXWELL, 60, was sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $750,00 fine.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maurene Comey, Alison Moe, Lara Pomerantz, and Andrew Rohrbach are in charge of the prosecution.