- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
To family and friends in her glittering circle, Ghislaine Maxwell is an accomplished entrepreneur, generous philanthropist, and activist fighting to save the oceans.
But to the young women she delivered to multimillionaire predator Jeffrey Epstein, she was the monster orchestrating their sexual abuse.
Now those survivors are finding some semblance of justice decades after Maxwell recruited them for Epstein and allegedly molested them herself.
On Tuesday, Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years (240 months) behind bars—plus a fine of $750,000—for trafficking underage girls for Epstein, becoming his first and only accomplice to be convicted and sent to prison for facilitating his underage sex ring. The 60-year-old British socialite has denied any wrongdoing in connection to Epstein, who was her former boyfriend and employer.
The punishment arrived six months after a Manhattan federal jury found Maxwell guilty of five charges related to child sex trafficking. Prosecutors had asked for a 30- to 55-year sentence, while Maxwell’s lawyers had requested a lenient term “well below” under the 20 years suggested by the U.S. Probation Office. (In one court filing, the defense suggested her sentencing range should be 51 to 63 months.)
Maxwell was escorted into the courtroom in prison garb and shackles, slowly shuffling toward her seat as the gallery went quiet. Her siblings, Kevin, Isabel, and Christine, sat in the front row to support her. Behind them were several victims.
Four victims testified against Maxwell at trial in December 2021, but several more submitted victim impact statements to Judge Alison Nathan ahead of the sentencing hearing.
At sentencing, four survivors spoke: Annie Farmer, a woman referred to by the pseudonym “Kate,” Sarah Ransome, and Elizabeth Stein, who came forward for the first time toward the end of Maxwell’s trial. Victims’ lawyer Sigrid McCawley read a statement on behalf of Virginia Roberts Giuffre. Ransome and Kate in particular glanced over at Maxwell as she stared straight ahead at the defense table in her cuffs and prison blues.
After they were done, Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim took the podium and turned to face the victims, telling them, “Your statements are immensely powerful. We feel the pain.” She added, “We can only hope the sentence to be imposed will give you some solace.”
In another shocking turn, Maxwell faced the judge to speak as well, stopping short of taking any responsibility for her crimes.
“It is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain and anguish expressed in the statements today,” Maxwell said in her soft British accent. “I want to acknowledge their suffering and empathize. I empathize deeply with all the victims in this case.”
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Mr. Epstein,” she added.
Some victims broke down as Maxwell made her remarks.
“To you, all the victims, those who came to court and those outside, I’m sorry for the pain you experienced,” Maxwell said. “I hope my conviction and harsh and unusual incarceration brings you closure … some measure of peace and finality.”
Before imposing the sentence, Judge Nathan said she disagreed that Maxwell had encountered any mistreatment behind bars, saying she had likely had more privileges than lesser-known inmates during COVID. She also said that Maxwell’s wealth and high profile wouldn’t weigh into her prison term. “Whether you are rich or poor, powerful or unknown, no one is above the law,” Nathan declared.
“Today’s sentence will attempt to acknowledge the harm Ghislaine Maxwell caused,” she said.
After Maxwell heard her fate, Sternheim requested Maxwell be sent to the Bureau of Prisons women’s facility in Danbury, Connecticut, and be enrolled in a Female Integrated Treatment program to deal with past family trauma.
The sentencing marked the end of a years-long battle for justice by Epstein and Maxwell’s victims, and several of them flew into New York to observe it.
Farmer told the court, “Maxwell had many opportunities to come clean, but instead continued to make choices that caused more harm. When my sister and I first spoke out to the media about what happened to us, Maxwell lied about us and threatened Maria, thus helping shut down investigations into Epstein’s behavior so they could together continue to harm children and young women.”
“I ask you to bear in mind how Maxwell’s unwillingness to acknowledge her crimes, her lack of remorse, and her repeated lies about her victims created the need for many of us to engage in a long fight for justice that has felt like a black hole sucking in our precious time, energy, and well-being for much too long now,” Farmer added.
Farmer testified that Maxwell and Epstein preyed on her in 1996 when she was 16 and visited them in New Mexico and that Maxwell groped her chest during a massage.
When she read her statement in court, Farmer began to cry as she described how her older sister, Maria, was assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell and said their threats forced her into hiding and negatively impacted her health. “As my family watched her grow more isolated and more physically ill from the stress of all of it, we all felt powerless,” Annie said.
As part of the government’s criminal case, Maxwell was accused of grooming multiple underage girls for Epstein between 1994 and 2004. The trial included testimony from four victims and their friends and family, former employees of Epstein and Maxwell, and even one of Epstein’s former girlfriends, Eva Andersson-Dubin, who claimed to have memory issues on the stand. (Dubin’s billionaire husband, Glenn, has faced abuse accusations from Epstein victim Giuffre but denies her claims.)
While Giuffre did not testify at trial, her name permeated the proceedings, including when Epstein’s former butler Juan Alessi testified that he witnessed Maxwell recruit a teenage Giuffre at former President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort.
The names of Epstein and Maxwell’s famous friends, including former presidents Trump and Bill Clinton, and Britain’s Prince Andrew, also surfaced during testimony.
One victim referred to as Jane Doe told jurors that Epstein and Maxwell recruited her at a prestigious summer camp when she was 14 in 1994 and repeatedly name-dropped famous people in front of her to intimidate her. She testified that the perverted couple trained her to sexually service Epstein soon after recruiting her.
Carolyn Andriano, who testified under her first name but after trial began speaking publicly using her full name, said she was 15 and living in Florida in 2001 when Maxwell arranged for her to give Epstein “massages.”
A fourth victim, testifying under the pseudonym “Kate,” told the jury that Maxwell trafficked her to Epstein beginning in 1994, when she was 17 and visiting Maxwell’s London townhouse. (Kate was originally listed as a minor victim in court records before the defense argued she was of the age of consent in England when the abuse occurred.)
“It was the very skilled grooming, perpetrated on me, intentionally and consistently, that instilled in me, the belief that I could not say no to Ghislaine Maxwell, or Epstein,” Kate wrote in her statement to the court. “I witnessed on numerous occasions, over many years, Ghislaine Maxwell trying to recruit other girls and making consistent and insistent demands on me and others to do the same.
“I witnessed her relentless and insatiable drive to meet the sexual needs of Epstein, at any cost to the vulnerable girls and women, upon whom she preyed and fed to Epstein and other powerful men, to whom she wished to ingratiate herself. There was never any ambiguity or doubt about her having full knowledge of what was to take place once she recruited girls.”
In the courtroom on Tuesday, Kate equated seeking justice against child sex traffickers with the fight to uphold women’s rights, in particular the right to have an abortion. “Today I can look at Ghislaine and tell her I became what I became in spite of her,” Kate said.
Ransome, who met Epstein and Maxwell in 2006 when she was 22, described how they manipulated her into degrading sex acts by dangling the prospect of paying for her schooling. She dreamed of attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and the couple kept promising to help her get in. “They told me that I was exceptionally intelligent and that I had real potential to be someone and something in life,” Ransome said through tears.
“Maxwell is today the same woman I met almost 20 years ago—incapable of compassion or common human decency,” Ransome continued.
Stein, the last victim to speak, said Maxwell recruited her in 1991 from the Henri Bendel department store. At the time, Stein was in her senior year at FIT and offered to deliver Maxwell’s purchases to her home. Maxwell, however, asked her to come to a hotel room, where Epstein was waiting. “That night in the hotel was the first of many times they sexually assaulted me,” Stein told the courtroom, adding that “they began trafficking me to their friends.”
“I changed jobs, apartments, cities, and even states to try to get away,” she continued. “Everywhere I went, they found me.”
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, about a year after Epstein was indicted for sex trafficking and killed himself in a Manhattan federal lockup. The bust upended her seemingly quiet second act as a suburban stepmom in Massachusetts, where she lived with her then-husband Scott Borgerson away from Manhattan society. (Borgerson did not attend the trial, and the couple’s relationship ended sometime after the charges.)
Epstein’s and Maxwell’s arrests followed a renewed public outcry over a botched Florida case against Epstein. In 2007, the money manager was staring down a 53-page indictment for molesting and raping dozens of girls in Florida. But he would ultimately get a slap on the wrist—serving 13 months in a Palm Beach jail, mostly on work release—after his high-powered lawyers brokered a secret deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. By the time victims learned about the agreement, the ink was dry.
For years, Epstein and Maxwell appeared to avoid any kind of criminal liability. But in 2018, the Miami Herald published a three-part exposé revisiting Epstein’s lenient treatment, and the feds opened an investigation into his sex-trafficking scheme in New York, resulting in the financier’s dramatic arrest on a New Jersey tarmac in July 2019.
Maxwell’s family and lawyers have repeatedly argued that investigators unfairly made her into a “scapegoat” for Epstein after his jailhouse suicide.
In the lead-up to Maxwell’s high-profile trial, her siblings launched a public-relations campaign—with a website and Twitter handle—to battle the negative media attention surrounding their sister. The family, as well as Maxwell’s legal team, also repeatedly complained about her conditions inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
“The Court cannot heal the wounds caused by Epstein by heaping on Ms. Maxwell’s shoulders the pain of every one of his victims, the outrage of society, the public scorn of the community, and then driving her out of the community forever,” Sternheim wrote in a sentencing memorandum this month. “While that may assuage the public and give the perception that ‘justice was done,’ that is not justice. That is scapegoating. Ms. Maxwell must be sentenced on the record before the Court and not these external pressures.”
The government, in its own sentencing memorandum, argued Maxwell “enjoyed a life of extraordinary luxury and privilege” while grooming and abusing multiple teenage girls.
“If anything stands out from the defendant’s sentencing submission, it is her complete failure to address her offense conduct and her utter lack of remorse,” the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote. “Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can.”
“Maxwell was an adult who made her own choices,” they added. “She made the choice to sexually exploit numerous underage girls. She made the choice to conspire with Epstein for years, working as partners in crime and causing devastating harm to vulnerable victims. She should be held accountable for her disturbing role in an extensive child exploitation scheme.”
Giuffre, who since 2011 has spoken publicly about her time in Epstein’s orbit, addressed Maxwell directly in her own victim impact statement. Now a mother living in Australia, Giuffre has repeatedly given interviews on how Epstein and Maxwell coerced her into having sex with Prince Andrew. (Andrew denied the claims and settled a lawsuit with Giuffre earlier this year.)
“I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible pedophile. But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you,” Giuffre wrote. “For me, and for so many others, you opened the door to hell. And then, Ghislaine, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you used your femininity to betray us, and you led us all through it.”
Giuffre concluded, “My promise to you is as follows: As long as you and perpetrators like you continue to prey upon the vulnerable, I will not stop standing up and speaking out. Together, with so many others you abused, we will do all we can to keep predators from stealing the innocence of children.
“I will never give up. I will never go away. If you ever get out of prison, I will be here, watching you, making sure you never hurt anyone else again.”
Outside the courthouse after the sentencing, a swarm of reporters and spectators gathered under a cloudy blue sky. Farmer spoke alongside McCawley, telling the crowd, “Often perpetrators, as we saw in this case, are not strangers in vans. They’re people that live in our communities and they’re people often in positions of power.”
“For far too long the institutions that should be protecting the public were instead protecting” Epstein and Maxwell, she added.
Longtime victims’ lawyer Brad Edwards then spoke, saying the Epstein scandal was far from over—if not from a criminal perspective, at least in civil court.
“We will keep pushing forward until the whole range of other people are known, what they did and what they didn’t do. If the government prosecutes them, that would be great,” Edwards said.
“If you engage in any form of conduct like this, whether you are a facilitator, groomer, perpetrator, whoever you are, nobody is above the law,” Edwards said. “I think that’s the message everybody understands very loud and clear today.”
When someone in the crowd yelled, “How about Bill Clinton?” Edwards responded, “How about Bill Clinton?”
“There’s a lot of people that have a lot of information. We’ve said for a long time: they know things. And they should be speaking and the time is now. And if they’re continuing to not speak, they’re hurting victims, they’re hurting survivors. They’re not helping.”
“So we could sit here and yell out names of a lot of people who have a lot of power and prestige, and they hide behind that and instead don’t come forward and just do the right thing like a normal good human being.
“I wish that they would come forward, and maybe that’s one of them.”
Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here