Today, in what closes a horrific chapter in the life of several victims, Jeffrey Epstein co-conspirator and girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell received her sentencing - nearly two years to the day after her arrest.
Unfortunately, it's only partial closure, because the man who perpetrated the worse of the abuses against both women and underage girls is dead, having ostensibly committed suicide in his jail cell in 2019.
With Epstein out of the reach of justice, Maxwell is the only one victims can turn to for closure - and several asked to speak at the sentencing, hoping to encourage Judge Alison J Nathan to push her sentence to the maximum. Maxwell recruited and groomed multiple girls, and then engaged in the abuse alongside her boyfriend, and now her fate is in the hands of a New York court.
CNN reports, "Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December on five of six counts against her, including sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She was acquitted on one charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
The British socialite will be sentenced on only three counts after Judge Alison Nathan agreed that two of the conspiracy counts she faced were repetitive."
Prosecutors were seeking 30 to 55 years behind bars, and the defense counsel was hoping to cut it down to 4.25 to 5.25 years.
Maxwell herself addressed the court, expressing that it was difficult to hear the pain caused to the victims. "Your honor, it is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain and anguish expressed in the statements made here today. The terrible impact on the lives of so many women is difficult to hear and even more difficult to absorb, both in its scale and in its extent."
Maxwell added, "I believe that Jeffrey Epstein was a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life and fooled all of those in his orbit."
Maxwell says that she believes Epstein should have been before the court both now and when he was accused multiple times before, and said, "To you, all the victims," she continued, "I am sorry for the pain that you experienced."
She concluded, "It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom and to all those outside this courtroom that this day brings a terrible chapter to the end, to an end. And to those of you who spoke here today and those of you who did not, may this day help you travel from darkness into the light."
Ultimately, the judge decided to hand down a sentence of 20 years in prison. Judge Nathan explains, "A sentence of 240 months is sufficient and no graver than necessary."
The judge made note that although Epstein was central to the crimes, Maxwell is not being punished as a proxy for what he did - only for the crimes she committed. Nathan explained, "Ms Maxwell directly and repeatedly and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme" to abuse and exploit girls, playing a "pivotal" role in facilitating their abuse.
The New York Times reports, "Judge Nathan, while reviewing the facts of the case, says: 'I find that the defendant’s criminal activity was extensive.'"
Placed on Suicide Watch
Leading up to today's sentencing, Maxwell was placed on suicide watch.
Considering the fact that Epstein was found dead in his jail cell of apparent suicide in 2019, it's not a stretch to assume Maxwell could do the same - although conspiracy theories abound that Epstein did not and could not have killed himself, and that guards were paid to look the other way while he was killed to keep the secrets of the rich and powerful.
If that's the case, those rich and powerful people must believe Maxwell isn't the same flight risk because she has remained untouched in her jail cell. But that doesn't mean the former socialite and Epstein conspirator was idle; soon after arriving in prison, Maxwell reportedly offered to teach yoga and help some of the women earn their GEDs.
Maxwell was thrown into solitary confinement this week. In a letter, her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim explains that Maxwell is not suicidal, but rather that she was not prepared to review legal documents since she was thrown into solitary. It's a bizarre explanation - with more questions than answers. During sentencing, Maxwell herself disproved the letter, telling the court, "I did have an opportunity to read it."
What to Know About the Case
Between the two of them, Epstein and Maxwell are believed to have sexually assaulted dozens of minor girls, and Maxwell was reportedly the bait.
Charming, engaging and overtly friendly; Maxwell's presence would put the girls at ease as she would draw them in and set them up for abuse by Epstein, according to victims.
Three victims provided impact statements at the sentencing which were powerful. When she testified during the trial, a victim known only as Kate said, "She seemed to be everything I wanted to be ... [she made me feel] like somebody wanted me, like somebody wanted to be my friend.” She added, "I didn't know how to say no."
Epstein's abuses remain the subject of horrific mythology with the man unable to confess to the crimes he committed, and victims left frustrated as they look for a way to close the horrible chapter behind them and heal for the future. Maxwell's sentencing is the first step to a new life - but it's small comfort as the mastermind himself escaped the long arm of the law.