Ghislaine Maxwell has been ordered to spend 20 years in prison for helping sex offender Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.
The British socialite was convicted in December for recruiting and grooming girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein, then her boyfriend, between 1994 and 2004.
Prior to sentencing on Wednesday morning (Australian time), four women spoke of their ongoing suffering at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell. Another four women provided victim impact statements.
“You could have put an end to the rapes, the molestations, the sickening manipulations that you arranged, witnessed and even took part in,” said one victim, identified only as Kate.
Virginia Guiffre – one of Epstein’s victims who has also accused Prince Andrew – did not testify but did provide a letter calling Maxwell “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
“I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you,” Ms Guiffre wrote.
“You opened the door to hell. And then, Ghislaine … you used your femininity to betray us, and you led us all through it.”
Legs shackled, Maxwell stood at the court podium to comment on her punishment, but stopped short of taking responsibility.
“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you,” she said.
“It’s not about Epstein, ultimately. It is for me to be sentenced.”
The 60-year-old told victims: “I’m sorry for the pain that you’ve experienced … I hope my conviction … brings you closure.”
US Circuit Judge Alison Nathan read the sentence at a hearing in Manhattan federal court, noting Maxwell had “direct and repeated participation in a horrific scheme”.
“Miss Maxwell is not punished in place of Epstein … [she] is being punished for the role she played,” Ms Nathan said.
Prosecutors last week called Maxwell’s conduct “shockingly predatory” and said she deserved to spend at least 30 years behind bars for the five charges on which she was convicted, based on their interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines.
Maxwell’s lawyers had earlier said in court papers that she should be sentenced to no more than five and one-quarter years, arguing that she was being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes and that she had already spent significant time in jail.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 and repeatedly denied bail.
Since then, she has been held mostly at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Centre, where she has complained of vermin and the scent of raw sewage in her cell.
Her lawyer has compared her confinement conditions to those of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.
Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre says Ghislaine Maxwell enabled the abuse against her. Photo: Nine
Maxwell was placed on suicide watch over the weekend.
Her lawyers, however, said she was not suicidal.
In April, Ms Nathan rejected Maxwell’s bid for an acquittal but set aside guilty verdicts on two counts because they overlapped.
That reduced Maxwell’s maximum possible sentence to 55 years from 65 years.
The case has been one of the highest-profile of the MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse, often at the hands of wealthy and powerful people.