NEW YORK – Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite who conspired with Jeffrey Epstein over a decade to sexually exploit and abuse underage girls, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday, a punishment that means she could spend much of the rest of her life in prison.
The sentence, while severe, was shorter than the government had recommended. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 30 years. If the conviction is upheld, Maxwell, with time potentially deducted for good behavior and credit for the two years she has spent in jail, could leave prison in her late 70s.
Maxwell, 60, the daughter of British media magnate Robert Maxwell, was convicted Dec. 29 of sex trafficking and other counts after a monthlong trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The government presented testimony and other evidence at Maxwell’s trial depicting her as a sophisticated predator who “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused by Epstein,” as prosecutors wrote to Judge Alison J. Nathan last week.
“Years of sexual abuse, multiple victims, devastating psychological harm: None of this could have happened without Maxwell,” the prosecutors said.
Maxwell’s trial was widely seen as the reckoning that Epstein, 66, never had. The disgraced financier hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell one month after his July 2019 arrest as he awaited his own trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell had been Epstein’s girlfriend and longtime companion. She had flown with him on his planes and lived in his mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, where she was referred to as the “Lady of the House.”
During the trial, Maxwell’s lawyers took every opportunity to separate their client from Epstein. Writing to Nathan this month, they cited trial testimony about Maxwell’s “facilitation of Epstein’s abuse,” but argued that “Epstein was the principal abuser.”
The office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in its submission to the judge that Maxwell had both failed to address her criminal conduct and showed an “utter lack of remorse.”
Maxwell’s lawyers have said she will appeal her conviction.
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