Ghislaine Maxwell, the jet-setting socialite who once consorted with royals, presidents and billionaires, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for helping the financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.
The stiff sentence was a victory for a group of women who spent years fighting for justice after an earlier generation of prosecutors failed to pursue the predatory power couple.
Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial, sexually abused children hundreds of times over more than a decade, exploiting vulnerable girls as young as 14.
Prosecutors said he couldn’t have done so without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion.
Maxwell, wearing a blue prison uniform and a white mask to conform with coronavirus rules, looked to one side as the sentence was announced, but otherwise did not react. She wore leg shackles that could be heard rattling when she walked into the courtroom.
The sentence was shorter than the term sought by prosecutors, but Epstein’s accusers still expressed relief.
A jury in December convicted Maxwell, 60, of sex trafficking, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and two conspiracy charges.
Judge Alison J. Nathan noted as she imposed the prison term and a $750,000 fine that Maxwell never expressed remorse for her crimes. The judge said she wanted the sentence to send an “unmistakable message” that nobody was above the law.
Addressing the court earlier, Maxwell stood at a lectern and said she empathized with the survivors and hoped her punishment would bring them peace. But she did not admit culpability and laid blame for the abuse on Epstein, saying meeting him was the “greatest regret of my life.”
She called him “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life.”
The judge said Maxwell was being punished for her “heinous and predatory” crimes, not Epstein’s. She criticized Maxwell’s “pattern of deflection and blame.”
Four survivors at the sentencing described their sexual abuse, including Annie Farmer, who was briefly overcome with emotion as she addressed the judge.
She said she and her sister tried to go public with their stories about being abused by Epstein and Maxwell two decades ago, only to be shut down by the powerful couple through threats and influence with authorities.
“We will continue to live with the harm she caused us,” Farmer said.
Inside a courtroom crowded with reporters, three of Maxwell’s siblings sat in a row behind her. Outside the courthouse, Kevin Maxwell said that his sister won’t give up on her legal battle, “and we as a family will be solidly behind her.”
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim promised to appeal. She said Epstein left Maxwell “holding the whole bag.”
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped accountability, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment he truly deserved,” she said.