Ghislaine Maxwell: British socialite given 20 years in prison for aiding Jeffrey Epstein abuse
She could have served up to 65 years as a maximum term
Ahead of the hearing at Manhattan Federal Court which began at 11 am New York local time (4 pm GMT), Maxwell was facing a maximum term of 65 years of jail time.
Some lawyers estimated that she may have helped facilitate the abuse of more than 160 women and girls.
Speaking directly to the judge after her lawyer spoke, she said: “I empathise deeply with all the victims in this case.
“I realise I have been convicted of assisting Jeffrey Epstein to commit these crimes. My association with Epstein will permanently stain me. It is the biggest regret of my life than I ever met him.
“I believe Jeffrey Epstein fooled all of those in his orbit. His victims considered him a mentor, friend, and lover.
“Jeffrey Epstein should have stood before you. In 2005. In 2009. And again in 2019. But today it is for me to be sentenced.”
In her closing statement, Judge Nathan said: “Ms Maxwell is not being punished as a proxy of Epstein, but rather for her role in the criminal conduct.
“She participated in some of the abuse. Her conduct was heinous and predatory.”
Having been initially charged with five counts of sex trafficking, as well as transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy, the 60-year-old was ultimately tried for just three counts after Judge Alison Nathan ruled that two of the conspiracy counts were repetitive.
One of the witnesses who spoke at the sentencing was Virginia Giuffre, who not only accused Prince Andrew of sexual assault - ultimately accepting a £12m settlement - but was also previously paid off by Jeffrey Epstein back in 2009.
Among the six victims said to have spoken at the hearing, many of which acting under pseudonyms, Giuffre condemned Epstein's "partner in crime" for being a "wolf in sheep’s clothing" and using her "femininity" to betray her own sex before suggesting that she helped with "opening the door to hell".
As per the sentencing papers viewed by multiple outlets, the prosecutors deemed that “Maxwell’s conduct was shockingly predatory. She was a calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse.
“Not only did her conduct exhibit a callous disregard for other human beings", they continued, "but her practice of targeting vulnerable victims reflects her view that struggling young girls could be treated like disposable objects.”, adding that she "acted as an organizer and leader of a massive operation that spanned many years.”
There are also concerns for Maxwell's security after the former socialite recently claimed that a fellow inmate attempted to strangle her in her sleep after being offered money from an unknown source. Her own lawyers have said that "there are numerous prison inmates who would not hesitate to kill Ms Maxwell — whether for money, fame, or simple 'street cred'".
Since April 2021, Maxwell has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York. It is not yet known at which facility she will serve her sentence.
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