Sentence comes almost six months to the day from Maxwell’s conviction on sex trafficking charges
Judge Nathan described Maxwell’s offending as “heinous and predatory” as she sentenced her to a term that exceeded her own maximum sentencing guideline of up to 19 years and eight months.
The jury found her guilty of recruiting and grooming four girls between 1994 and 2004 for sexual encounters with her former boyfriend Epstein, who took his own life behind bars in 2019 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial.
Maxwell entered Tuesday’s hearing dressed in navy jail-issued scrubs and shackles. Also present in the court were members of Maxwell’s family and several of her victims, including Annie Farmer, “Kate”, and Elizabeth Stein.
Maxwell addressed the court directly before the sentence was handed down, saying: “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 that I ever met him.
“I believe Jeffrey Epstein fooled all of those in his orbit. His victims considered him a mentor, friend, 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.
“I am sorry for the pain you have experienced. I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you peace and finality. I hope this date brings a terrible chapter to the end,” she said, adding she hoped the victims could “travel from darkness into the light”.
Judge Nathan opened the proceedings by overruling several defence objections to a pre-sentencing investigative report compiled by the US Probation Office and hearing arguments from both sides on sentencing guidelines. The prosecution sought a sentence of 30 to 55 years, while the defence asked for no more than five and a quarter.
Having dismissed the defence’s assertion that Maxwell cannot afford to pay fines earlier in the hearing, she gave one of $750,000.
“No one is above the law,” Judge Nathan said. “This sentence must unmistakably send the message that anyone who facilitates the sexual abuse of minors will be held accountable.”
Maxwell will be 78 years old when she finishes the 20-year sentence after time served, followed by five years of supervised release. Her attorney requested that she serve her time at the BOP facility in Danbury, Connecticut, and stated the defence’s intent to appeal.
Assistant US attorney Alison Moe delivered the prosecution’s argument for a harsh sentence, calling Maxwell’s crimes “unspeakable”.
Of the victims, she said: “Their pain is real and it matters. These girls were just kids. Maxwell used their dreams as a tool to abuse them.”
Ms Moe asserted that Maxwell treated her victims as “disposable” while she “jet-setted with Epstein” and they “molested kids together”.
Victim impact statements from eight accusers were released ahead of the sentencing hearing, featuring harrowing stories of how their innocence was stolen and pleas for her to face harsh punishment.
Ms Farmer, who had told the trial that Maxwell gave her a nude massage and groped her breasts at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch when she was 16, stepped up first to deliver a portion of hers in court.
She fought back tears as she recalled her years-long efforts to “erase” Epstein and Maxwell’s abuse from her mind and said “the ripple effects of trauma are undeniable”.
After being cautioned by Judge Nathan to slow down, Ms Farmer described learning that her sister had also been a victim of Epstein and Maxwell, saying: “As my family watched her become more isolated and physically ill, there was nothing we could do.”
Addressing the judge, Ms Farmer said: “Consider the ongoing suffering of her victims. Weigh the systematic effects of her acts.
“Her lack of remorse created the need for many of us to begin a long struggle for justice.”
Maxwell stared straight ahead as one by one, the victims came forward to the glass cubicle in the middle of the courtroom to deliver harrowing experiences at her hands.
Another victim impact statement came from Virginia Giuffre, who became one of the most well-known accusers of Epstein after settling a sexual assault case against Prince Andrew earlier this year. She was not present in court on Tuesday but part of her statement was read out by her counsel Sigrid McCawley.
“I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible paedophile. But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you,” she began, noting that she was between the ages of 16 and 19 when she suffered at the hands of Maxwell and Epstein. “For me, and for so many others, you opened the door to hell.”
Ms Giuffre did not testify at the Maxwell trial and Prince Andrew has maintained his innocence despite settling her lawsuit against him.
Also speaking in court on Tuesday were victims “Kate”, Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein, who told of being “trapped” into Epstein’s web of abuse by Maxwell for years.
Ms Ransome and Ms Stein turned to speak directly at Maxwell, who did not turn to acknowledge them at any point.
Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim began her argument for a lenient sentence by addressing the victims who spoke before her, saying: “You have shown courage. We feel your pain.”
She went on to say that she will leave issues with the record to the Court of Appeals and said her remarks today are “about the US asking for multiple decades for a 60-year-old woman”.
Ms Sternheim called the prosecution’s request for the maximum sentence “out of proportion”, adding: “Jeffrey Epstein would have faced the same, and he is clearly more culpable.”
“I know that what we heard today does not beg sympathy for Ghislaine,” she said, before seeking to cast blame on Maxwell’s “narcissistic” father.
Ms Sternheim again noted Maxwell’s age, said she has no history of violence and that she’s been conducting English classes in jail.
“A sentence below the guidelines is sufficient. She should not be sent away from the rest of her life,” she said.
Prosecutors described Maxwell’s behaviour as “shockingly predatory” in a sentencing memorandum requesting a minimum sentence of 30 years and maximum of 55.
“Ghislaine Maxwell sexually exploited young girls for years. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of her crimes and the harm she caused. Her crimes demand justice,” they wrote in the 22 June filing.
“Not only did her conduct exhibit a callous disregard for other human beings, but her practice of targeting vulnerable victims reflects her view that struggling young girls could be treated like disposable objects.”
Meanwhile, Maxwell’s defence called for her to serve no more than five and a quarter years in prison, arguing that she is being scapegoated in the wake of Epstein’s suicide and that she has already served a significant amount of time locked up at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.
In an 11th hour letter to the judge three days before the sentencing, Maxwell’s lawyer Ms Sternheim claimed that she had been placed on suicide watch despite not being suicidal.
Ms Sternheim said that she had been “abruptly removed” from the general prison population and placed in a “suicide smock” that prevented her from reviewing documents related to her sentencing.