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Ghislaine Maxwell is on Tuesday expected to be sentenced over her role in supplying girls for onetime boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein to abuse, as part of one of the largest sex-trafficking rings in US history.
The Oxford-educated daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell was convicted late last year on five of six sexual abuse counts, the most serious for sex trafficking minors, and her sentence could amount to an effective life term behind bars.
What did she do?
Maxwell, 60, was found guilty of the sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy.
The case was dubbed the “trial of the decade” and sustained a huge amount of media interest.
The four-week federal trial alternated between disturbing testimony from sexual abuse victims and illuminating testimony about some of Epstein's connections to high-profile figures such as former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew. None were alleged to have committed wrongdoing in relation to Maxwell’s indictment.
Prosecutors argued Maxwell and Epstein conspired to set up a scheme to lure young girls into sexual relationships with Epstein from 1994 to 2004 in London, New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands.
Four women testified during the trial that Epstein abused them and that Maxwell facilitated the abuse and sometimes participated as well.
“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, told the jury in her summation. “She manipulated her victims, and she groomed them for sexual abuse.”
One victim “Jane”, who testified under a pseudonym to protect her identity, said that she met Maxwell and Epstein in 1994 when she was 14 at a music camp where he was a benefactor.
She described in graphic detail incidents of sexual abuse with Epstein that Maxwell would at times join in on, both in Palm Beach, Florida, and Manhattan when she was underage. She testified that Maxwell would sometimes be involved, touching her and Epstein.
Another, British woman “Kate”, told how Maxwell asked her to give Epstein massages while they were at Maxwell's townhouse in Belgravia.
She allegedly led the-then 18-year-old, dressed in a school uniform, to a back room where a naked Epstein “engaged in a sex act” before Maxwell told her accuser she was a "good girl".
The socialite’s lawyers put on just a two-day defence, which relied on false memory experts and witnesses to speak to Maxwell’s character.
In a sentencing letter to the judge last week, they claimed she was being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes. They argued that the late financier was the “mastermind.” “Epstein was the principal abuser and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification,” they claimed.
Who will speak?
Judge Alison Nathan on Monday ruled to allow into evidence the impact statements of seven victims, including “Kate”, Annie Farmer, another of the trial’s four victims, her sister Maria, and Briton Sarah Ransome, who was not included in the indictment.
Annie plans to plead for a lengthy sentence for Maxwell, saying: “Maxwell faced a choice. She could admit her participation in this scheme, acknowledge the harm caused or even provide information that could have helped hold others accountable,” Ms Farmer, now a therapist, will say.
“Instead, she again chose to lie about her behaviour, causing additional harm to all of those she victimised.”
Judge Nathan will also hear from Virginia Giuffre, who settled a civil sex abuse case with Prince Andrew earlier this year.
Ms Giuffre, who lives in Australia, is not expected to appear in person, however it will mark the first time she has been heard from since being awarded $12million (£10m) by the Duke.
Maxwell will be given the opportunity to speak in her own defence. It is most likely though that Maxwell, who did not testify at her trial, will choose to remain silent in court on Tuesday.
The judge will hear from Maxwell’s supporters, however, through written statements from siblings Ian, Kevin, Isabel, Christine, and Anne Halve, who will say abuse from their father left her vulnerable to manipulation by Epstein.
The court will also be read a statement from one of Maxwell’s cellmates, who has written that the former socialite is a “kind” and friendly person who has taught inmates yoga and helped with their GED (General Educational Diploma) tutoring.
Judge Nathan may come to a decision on Tuesday, or she may take some more time.
How long will Maxwell serve?
Prosecutors have asked that Maxwell receive between 30 and the maximum sentence of 55 years in jail.
Maxwell’s lawyers, meanwhile, have called on Judge Nathan to hand down a sentence “well below” the US probation office's recommended 20 years, citing a traumatic childhood and claiming that Maxwell is being unfairly punished because Epstein escaped trial.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in 2019 while awaiting his own sex crimes trial in New York.
In the government’s sentencing brief, prosecutors said Epstein could not have committed his crimes without Maxwell, who provided a “cover of respectability to Epstein that lulled the victims and their families into a false sense of security.”
Her access to wealth, the prosecutors wrote, enabled Maxwell to present herself “as a supposedly respectable member of society, who rubbed shoulders with royalty, presidents and celebrities.”
“That same wealth dazzled the girls from struggling families who became the defendant and Epstein’s victims,” they said, adding that her sentence should reflect that.
Maxwell has already been held in detention at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) for some two years following her arrest in New Hampshire in the summer of 2020. She spent much of it in solitary confinement on suicide watch.
Her lawyers objected multiple times to the confinement conditions there, including last November when they likened them to Hannibal Lecter's from the film The Silence of the Lambs. She was kept in isolation in a cell measuring 9ft by 7ft and was "awakened constantly at night".
She was placed back into the general prison population after her trial earlier this year, however, her siblings have twice been denied access.
The prosecution, and Maxwell’s victims, have appealed for the judge to pass the maximum sentence. The office of Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), said in its submission to the judge that Maxwell had both failed to address her criminal conduct and showed an “utter lack of remorse”.
“Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can,” they said.
Will she name names in hope of leniency?
During her four-week trial, entries from Maxwell’s so-called little black book of contacts were submitted into evidence.
One version of the book, a 92-page collection of typed contacts compiled by Maxwell and Epstein, was leaked by Gawker in 2015, and includes names and phone numbers of more than 1,000 celebrities, politicians and titans of business, including Prince Andrew, Alec Baldwin, Tony Blair, and Michael Bloomberg. Gawker claimed it found the directory in court documents.
The individuals listed in Epstein’s book have not been accused of or associated with any of Epstein’s or Maxwell’s crimes.
Ian Maxwell previously said his sister would never turn on former friends, or cut a deal with prosecutors to reduce her sentence.
“Prosecution confirmed no plea bargain offers were made or received” before the trial, he said back in January. “I expect that position to be maintained.”
Legal experts say if Maxwell was to “name names” of any alleged co-conspirators in a bid for leniency, that time had most likely already come and gone.
The British heiress would have had to have reached out to SDNY attorneys before they submitted their pre-sentencing sentencing, a former SDNY prosecutor told The Telegraph.
“It’s possible after sentencing but at that point it wouldn’t be as beneficial to her. Once you’re sentenced you’re sentenced,” he said.
Where will she serve her sentence?
Maxwell will remain at the MDC until the Bureau of Prisons makes a decision on where she should serve out her sentence.
If Maxwell is given a more lenient sentence, she may be sent to the low-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, known for housing “Orange is the New Black” author Piper Kerman.
Because she was convicted of sex crimes, Maxwell will not be assigned to a minimum-security prison camp like the one in Alderson, West Virginia where celebrity cook Martha Stewart served time for insider trading.
The Bureau will most likely opt to place an infamous inmate like Maxwell at a high-security prison away from media intrusion.
“She’s enduring arguably the worst and filthiest prison in the country,” offered prison consultant Justin Paperny of the MDC. “Wherever she serves her time will feel like Disneyland compared to where she is right now.”
A source told The Telegraph that Maxwell, who has British, French, and US citizenship, plans to make a formal application to the US authorities to be transferred back to the UK for the bulk of her jail term.
Under US law, she must spend the first three years in an American prison, but can then apply to return to the UK to be closer to her family.
The Maxwell family has said British prisons are “far superior” to those in the US and treat prisoners more humanely, branding the American system “a disgrace”.