Almost exactly two years after Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire and brought to New York to face charges of conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, groom and abuse underage girls, she is due to be sentenced on Tuesday before the Manhattan federal court.
If Judge Alison J. Nathan agrees to the government’s request for a sentence of at least 30 years, Ms Maxwell could spend much of the rest of her life in prison.
Ms Maxwell, 60, the daughter of British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was convicted on December 29 and will face three charges: sex trafficking, conspiracy and transportation of a minor with intent to commit illegal sexual activities.
The defense asked the judge to impose a sentence less than the 20 years recommended by the court’s probation office. There is no minimum sentence for Ms Maxwell, who has been jailed since being denied bail following her July 2, 2020 arrest.
Ms Maxwell’s sentencing hearing could last over an hour. Several of his accusers, including some who testified at his trial, have asked to address the judge, and Ms Maxwell will also have the opportunity to speak. Her lawyers have said she plans to appeal, and it is possible that Ms Maxwell, who did not give evidence at her trial, will also choose to remain silent in court on Tuesday.
His trial was widely seen as the reckoning Mr. Epstein, 66, his longtime companion, never had. The disgraced financier hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell a month after he was arrested in July 2019 while awaiting his own trial on sex trafficking charges.
Still, Mr Epstein was hovering over the lawsuit – his name resurfaced several times and Ms Maxwell’s lawyers took every opportunity to separate their client from him.
Lawyers for Ms Maxwell, in a sentencing letter to the judge, cited trial testimony regarding Ms Maxwell’s ‘facilitating abuse of Epstein’, but argued that ‘Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the main aggressor and Epstein had orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification.” .”
The lawyers claimed the government only turned its attention to Ms Maxwell after the public outcry that followed Mr Epstein’s death while in the custody of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons. They said authorities urgently wanted to “appease the renewed distress of Epstein accusers and repair the tarnished reputations of the DOJ and BOP.”
“There would be no trial for Epstein and no public vindication and justice for his accusers,” the lawyers wrote. “The government now had a huge hole to fill: Epstein’s empty chair.”
The office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in its submission to the judge that Ms Maxwell had both failed to address her criminal conduct and shown a “complete lack of remorse”.
Ms Maxwell’s attempt “to disparage the government for prosecuting her, and her assertion that she is held accountable for Epstein’s crimes, is both absurd and offensive,” prosecutors wrote.
“Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant is desperately trying to lay blame wherever she can,” they said.
The prosecution presented its evidence through 24 witnesses over 10 days in a case centered on four accusers, now adults. Two of the women said Mr Epstein had sex with them from the age of 14. One said Ms Maxwell was sometimes present during the encounters, and the other said Ms Maxwell directly sexually assaulted her by touching her breasts.
“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” federal prosecutor Alison Moe told the jury in her summary. “She manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse.”