Ghislaine Maxwell jailed for 20 years over sex trafficking underage girls

28 June 2022, 19:33 | Updated: 29 June 2022, 00:37

Maxwell has been jailed
Maxwell has been jailed. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor

Disgraced British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been jailed for 20 years for sex trafficking and her "pivotal" role in allowing Jeffrey Epstein to abuse girls.

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The former girlfriend of the dead paedophile financier was jailed on Tuesday, when she was also fined $750,000 (£615,000).

Maxwell, who lured girls to massage rooms for Epstein to abuse, was dressed in prisoner's clothing as she listened to her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, having entered the New York courtroom with shackles around her feet.

She apologised to her victims before being given her jail term, and said she hoped her sentencing would allow them "peace and finality" after the court heard emotional testimony from the women.

She said she "empathised deeply with all the victims in this case" and that Epstein "fooled all of those in his orbit".

Her association with him would "permanently stain" her, she added, claiming she felt it was "the biggest regret of my life that I ever met him".

"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."

Maxwell was convicted in December of five offences including sex trafficking minors, conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

The crimes happened between 1994 and 2004, and the sentencing judge said the "damage done to these girls was incalculable", with them having endured "painful, horrific and lasting impact of that trauma".

She showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.

Maxwell was jailed for 20 years for sex trafficking crimes
Maxwell was jailed for 20 years for sex trafficking crimes. Picture: Alamy

The 60-year-old, apologising to victims before the sentencing, had said: "I'm sorry for the pain that you have experienced."

"I hope my conviction brings closure. I hope it brings peace and finality. I also acknowledge the pain this case has brought to those that l love.

"It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom that this day brings a terrible chapter to an end.

"May this day help you travel from the darkness into the light."

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan, after sentencing, said she wanted to send a message that such crimes would be punished and added: "Those who engage in and facilitate sexual abuse will be held accountable by the law.

"Whether you are rich or powerful, nobody is above the law."

Sarah Ransome (right), one of the victims, was in court for the sentencing
Sarah Ransome (right), one of the victims, was in court for the sentencing. Picture: Getty

She said Maxwell "repeatedly, and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme to traffic young girls, some the age of 14".

"Epstein was central to this scheme" but Maxwell was not sentenced "as a proxy" for him, the judge said, adding: "The defendant's conduct... was heinous and predatory.

"Ms Maxwell worked with Epstein to select young victims who were vulnerable and played a pivotal role in facilitating sexual abuse."

Victims Sarah Ransome, Elizabeth Stein, Annie Farmer and the accuser known as "Kate" were all in the courtroom, as war Scotty David, the juror whose remarks about sexual abuse he suffered caused controversy after the trial.

Maxwell did not look at Ms Farmer as she spoke. Later, Ms Farmer said Maxwell's apology, saying it was "very hollow" and "she did not take responsibility for her crimes that she committed, and it felt like once more than she was trying to do something that benefitted her and not at all about the harm that she caused".

Ms Ransome's victim impact statement said she "was nothing more than a sex toy with a heartbeat and soul used to entertain Epstein, Maxwell and others" during the abuse she suffered, once considering jumping into shark-infested waters to escape it.

Maxwell, pictured in 2020, was fined $750,000
Maxwell, pictured in 2020, was fined $750,000. Picture: Getty

She previously expressed her hope that Maxwell would die behind bars.

"Kate", who is British, said today was the first day she was not afraid and said in court: "Ghislaine's lack of remorse and blatant refusal to take responsibility for her crimes towards us is her final insult.

"Someone who even had a difficult or abusive father does not excuse sex trafficking of minors.

"A lack of remorse or responsibility from Ghislaine is exactly how we can tell that she doesn't think what she did was wrong.

"She is not sorry and she would do it again."

"Kate" said after knowing Maxwell for years, she thought her to be "kind and generous until she does not get what she wants", branding her a "manipulative, cruel and merciless person".

Maxwell and Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial for sex trafficking in 2019, were "partners in crime together and they molested these kids together", prosecutor Alison Moe said.

Read more: Hunting Ghislaine: The Trial - John Sweeney returns

Maxwell's siblings Isabel Maxwell, Kevin Maxwell and Christine Maxwell went to the courtroom
Maxwell's siblings Isabel Maxwell, Kevin Maxwell and Christine Maxwell went to the courtroom. Picture: Getty

Asking for a sentence of decades, she told the court: "Her victims were vulnerable kids who found themselves alone in giant mansions, exploited by adults they thought would help them.

"What kind of person teaches a 16-year-old girl to massage the feet of a middle-aged man? What kind of person tells a 14-year-old girl how a grown man likes his penis to be touched?

"These are the actions of a person who is indifferent to the suffering of other human beings."

Virginia Giuffre should be considered a minor victim in the conspiracy despite not being named on the indictment, it was ruled in court before sentencing.

This article is being updated