Jun 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference announcing the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell in July 2020.
Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference announcing the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell in July 2020. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Ghislaine Maxwell on Tuesday was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a federal court on sex trafficking and other charges for helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse several teenage girls.

The big picture: A federal jury in December 2021 found Maxwell, 60, guilty of five counts, including sex trafficking of minors, for recruiting and grooming teenagers for Epstein between 1999 and 2007.

  • Maxwell was indicted in July 2020 on six federal counts related to sex trafficking and conspiring with Epstein, who died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial for federal sex trafficking charges.
  • She was also found guilty of conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

Federal prosecutors were seeking 30 to 55 years in prison for Maxwell, while she asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan for no more than five years.

  • She was only sentenced on three of those counts after Nathan ruled that two were repetitive, according to CNN.
  • Nathan added an additional $750,000 fine on top of the prison sentence, the maximum under the law, according to the New York Times.
  • In the trial, federal prosecutors, citing financial records submitted as evidence, argued that Epstein gave Maxwell about $30 million from 1999 to 2007 to recruit and groom teenagers — now women in their 30s and 40s — for the multimillionaire financier to sexually abuse them.
  • They argued that the payments compensated Maxwell for her willingness to commit crimes.
  • She has denied abusing anyone, and her attorneys have claimed she had been wrongfully accused after Epstein was found dead in jail. Her lawyers also contended that she should not be given a sentence that would be more appropriate for Epstein.

What they're saying: "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," Nathan said Tuesday before issuing the sentence, calling Maxwell's crimes "heinous and predatory," according to the Times.

  • Maxwell, before receiving her sentence, said she hoped it could bring closure to the victims.
  • “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," she said. "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.”

Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in Florida state court in 2008 as part of a controversial deal that granted him immunity from federal prosecution.

  • Maxwell disappeared from public view after the federal charges against Epstein were unsealed in Manhattan in 2019, with prosecutors at the time saying they were not bound by the Florida immunity deal.
  • Though scores of women have said Epstein abused them as minors with Maxwell's assistance, the trial focused on four women who accused Epstein of abusing them and Maxwell of recruiting and grooming them as teens in the 1990s and early 2000s.
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