Ghislaine Maxwell said meeting Jeffrey Epstein was the “biggest regret" of her life as a judge sentenced the disgraced British socialite to 20 years in prison for her role in a “horrific scheme” to abuse underage girls.
Approaching the New York courtroom podium with shackles around her feet, Maxwell told victims gathered in the public gallery that she was “sorry” for the pain that Epstein's sexual abuse had caused and hoped her imprisonment would bring them “some measure of peace and finality.”
However, she refused to take responsibility, saying her former partner Epstein was a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who had “fooled all of those in his orbit.”
“Despite the positive things I have done in my life, I know my association with Epstein will forever stain me,” Maxwell, 60, said in a clipped English accent, speaking at length for the first time since her 2020 arrest. “Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before you.”
Sarah Ransome, a British victim of Epstein and Maxwell, sobbed in the gallery and shook her head incredulously as Maxwell made her surprise last-minute bid for leniency.
After listening to appeals from the defence and prosecution on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan handed down a sentence of 240 months, which was above the guidelines, and a fine of $750,000, as she said Maxwell had failed to show remorse.
“She showed a pattern of deflection of blame,” said the judge. “She talked about the pain and anguish her victims had suffered. That was important. What wasn’t expressed was any responsibility.”
Maxwell’s lawyers had pleaded for a light sentence, arguing that Maxwell was first a victim of her father and secondly a victim of Epstein, who took his own life in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial.
'The damage she did to these girls is incalculable'
“Let me be clear,” said Judge Nathan dismissing the calls, “Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein. She is not his proxy. She was instrumental in the abuse and the damage she did to these girls is incalculable.”
She said the sentence should serve as a warning that “whether you are rich or poor, no one is above the law.”
While severe, the sentence was shorter than the US Government had recommended. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 30 years. Maxwell, with time potentially deducted for good behaviour and credit for the two years she has spent in jail, could leave prison in her late 70s.
The defence appealed to the judge to recommend Maxwell serve out her sentence at the medium-security women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut, and be allowed to enrol in a psychiatric programme to address “familial trauma”. They said they planned to appeal.
Maxwell's victims packed the court on Tuesday, testifying one after another to her "relentless and insatiable drive to meet the sexual needs of Epstein" and spoke of their "re-traumatisation" over having to give evidence during the trial.
Maxwell refused to acknowledge the women as they each took to the stand, instead staring straight ahead and taking sips from her water.
Some broke down in tears as they detailed how they suffered, and continue to suffer, from their abuse.
Ms Ransome, a British victim of Epstein, told the court how Maxwell saw her as "nothing more than a human sex toy,” and revealed that she had twice attempted suicide after being diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
“Maxwell is today the same woman I met almost 20 years ago – incapable of compassion or common human decency,” Ms Ransome said. “Because of her wealth, social status, and connections, she believes herself beyond reproach and above the law. Sentencing her to the rest of her life in prison will not change her, but it will give other survivors and [me] a slight sense of justice."
'A wolf in sheep's clothing'
A statement read out for Virginia Giuffre, the Duke of York's accuser, who declined to travel to New York from her home in Australia, said Maxwell used her "femininity to betray us" like she was "a wolf in sheep's clothing".
Ms Giuffre, 37, was not included in the four-week federal trial but has become one of the most well-known accusers of Epstein after settling a $12million (£10m) sexual assault case against Prince Andrew.
Annie Farmer, who was sexually abused by Epstein and Maxwell when she was a teenager, said she was happy with the sentence, but described Maxwell’s entreaty as “hollow”.
Maxwell’s siblings Kevin, Isabel and Christine sat emotionless on the front row of the public gallery through the three-hour hearing, receiving only occasional glances from their youngest sister.
Maxwell made a point of apologising to her family for the shame she had brought them. “I acknowledge the pain this case has brought my family,” she said in her address. “It torments me every day.”
The four-week 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.
The sentencing closes a chapter on one of the most notorious sex-trafficking rings in US history. More than 150 women have received compensation from Epstein’s victim fund, while women are still coming forward with allegations of abuse by the pair.
It was one of the most high-profile cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse, often at the hands of wealthy and powerful people.
"Today is not a happy day," said British victim “Kate”, one of the four accusers to testify at the trial, in her impact statement. “But I stand here with my sisters, bonded by trauma, to set a precedent and say enough is enough.”
Maxwell's statement to court in full
Ghislaine Maxwell's family have released her full statement, which you can read in this tweet:
Ghislaine’s Statement made to the Court at her Sentencing:https://t.co/ny2DzRvELc
— RealGhislaine (@RealGhislaine) June 28, 2022
And separately, if you want to read the victim impact statements, they are here.
No emotion shown to victims
Even during her unexpected statement, the defendant remained composed and delivered it in a measured fashion.
The courtroom appeared to be taken aback by her decision to speak, with a ripple of excitement from those spectating.
Victim impact statements were read to the court by two of the victims listed on the indictment, Ms Farmer and Kate.
During their speeches, Maxwell looked straight ahead and did not look at them once.
The defendant did choose to look at one of her other accusers, Ms Ransome, as she delivered her statement to the court.
The three-hour hearing also saw Maxwell play with her hair and adjust her mask multiple times.
How Maxwell reacted in court
Details are coming through of Maxwll reacting to her 20 year sentence.
The Press Association says that she showed no emotion and only looked at one victim throughout the entirety of her three-hour sentencing hearing.
The 60-year-old entered the courtroom in the Southern District of New York with shackles around her ankles which rattled as she made her way to her seat on Tuesday morning.
Wearing a prison-issued uniform, Maxwell was handed a Fiji water at the beginning of the hearing by her sister, Isabel, which she frequently sipped throughout, including during some uncomfortable moments.
As she was asked to stand when Judge Alison Nathan passed the sentence, Maxwell elected to look straight ahead without showing any obvious signs of emotion.
Maxwell to appeal sentence
Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Maxwell, said she would appeal, arguing the public scrutiny of the case before the trial "left little room for her to be treated fairly."
"We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped accountability, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment he truly deserved," Ms Sternheim told reporters.
Contrasting emotions outside court
There is a real release of emotion from victims of Epstein and Maxwell. The socialite's family and legal team, however, are much more sombre.
Where will she serve her sentence?
Maxwell's lawyers have asked that she 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.”
Victims blast Maxwell's last-ditch plea
Annie Farmer said Ghislaine Maxwell's last-ditch attempt to apologise to her victims had sounded "hollow".
Ms Farmer, who delivered her own victim impact statement in person to the court during the sentencing, addressed reporters outside the court following the verdict.
"Her statement very like a very hollow apology to me and she did not take responsibility for the crimes that she committed," she said.
"It felt like once more her trying to do something to benefit her and not at all about the harm she had caused."
She added: "We're very happy with the sentence."
Speaking about reading her statement to the court, Ms Farmer said: "It actually felt very powerful to finally have a chance to speak and have my voice on the record and say the things I wanted to say about how her crimes have impacted myself and people that I know and care about."
The victim impact statements
Judge Alison Nathan found that Maxwell showed no remorse for her actions and did not accept responsibility.
Eight women, including Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Annie Farmer and a British woman called 'Kate' have detailed how the socialite and long-term partner of Jeffrey Epstein destroyed their lives.
Maxwell was described as a predator, monster and a dangerous and devious individual in victim impact statements read to the court.
How the trial unfolded
With Maxwell now due to spend 20 years behind bars, take a look back at the key moments which sealed her fate.
Read them here.
Judge Nathan, continued
Sentencing Ghislaine Maxwell to 20 years in prison, Judge Alison Nathan told the court she "repeatedly, and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme to traffic young girls, some the age of 14."
Judge Nathan said it was important that although "Epstein was central to this scheme" she was not being sentenced "as a proxy" for him.
She said: "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."
More sentencing remarks
We are getting more sentencing remarks from Judge Alison Nathan as reporters filter out of the court.
"The damage done to these girls was incalculable," she said.
The victims were forced to live through the "painful, horrific and lasting impact of that trauma.
"Those who engage in and facilitate sexual abuse will be held accountable by the law, Judge Nathan continued.
"Whether you are rich or powerful, nobody is above the law."
20 years is "fair and just" says victims' lawyer
Brad Edwards, a lawyer for some of the Epstein / Maxwell victims has described the sentence as "fair and just" outside court.
'Lack of remorse' a key factor
The dust has still not settled, but it is clear that Maxwell's decision to entrench her position after being convicted rather than apologise to victims and show remorse counted against her.
She continued to blame Jeffrey Epstein right up until the end.
"The sentencing submissions did not express remorse or accept responsibility," said Judge Nathan.
Court is adjourned
With that, the court is adjourned.
$750,000 fine also imposed
Judge Nathan says: "That is 20 years. Then five years of supervised release. I impose a fine of $750,000.
This is the maximum allowed by law.
Ms Sternheim, Maxwell’s lawyer, requests that her client be sent to the BOP woman’s facility in Danbury, Connecticut, and enrolled in a female treatment program to address past familial and other trauma.
Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison
"The sentencing submissions did not express remorse or accept responsibility. Ms Maxwell is entitled to exercise her right to go to trial. But I will take into account her lack of remorse. I conclude that a sentence of 240 months is right."
'Significant sentence is necessary'
Judge Nathan says: "A significant sentence is necessary. I take into account the history & characteristics of the defendant, including her present lack of danger."
Statement of judgement
Judge Alison Nathan has moved to the statement of judgement.
"The guideline is 188 to 235 months," she says.
"A jury convicted her. Ms. Maxwell is not being punished as a proxy of Epstein, but rather for her role in the criminal conduct. She participated in some of the abuse. Her conduct was heinous and predatory.
Maxwell addresses victims
"I believe Jeffrey Epstein fooled all of those in his orbit. 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.
"I am sorry for the pain you have experience. I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you peace and finality. I hope this day brings a terrible chapter to the end."
Maxwell addresses the court
For the first time in the entire legal process, other than for formalities, Ms Maxwell has stood up to address the court.
"I empathise deeply with all the victims in this case," she says.
"I realise I have been convicted of assisting Jeffrey Epstein to commit these crimes. My association with Epstein will permanently stain me. It is the biggest regret of my life that I ever met him."
Pleading the case for Maxwell
Ms Sternheim says that probation recommended 20 years - now higher than applicable guideline.
"The US asks for the outer limits. It is out of proportion. Jeffrey Epstein would have faced the same - and he is clearly more culpable," she claims.
"I know that what we heard today does not beg sympathy for Ghislaine. She has lived her whole life under a cloud. The accident of her brother just after she was born, on Christmas Day. Her narcissistic father overwhelmed her childhood and early adulthood.
"She is over 60 years old. She has no history of violence. When she was moved, in the past two months, to general population she began conducting English classes.
Maxwell's lawyer speaks
After a series of emotional victim impact statements - which you can read in full here - Bobbi Sternheim is now addressing the court.
"To those who spoke, you have shown courage," she says.
"The purpose of today is not to take issue with the record. That will be addressed to the Court of Appeals. This is about the US asking for "multiple decades" for a 60 year old woman.
'Everywhere I went, they found me'
Elizabeth Stein continues: "I loved life and people genuinely enjoyed being around me. After meeting Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, it felt like someone shut off the lights to my soul.
"My secrets became too much for me to handle and I began doing whatever I could to try to get away from Maxwell and Epstein. I changed jobs, apartments, cities and even states to try to get away.
"Everywhere I went, they found me."
Elizabeth Stein details multiple rapes
Another victim, Elizabeth Stein, says that Maxwell and Epstein "made me feel like they were friends, contemporaries.
"In one instance they took me to Florida, insisted that I stay longer than planned which caused me to miss work and led to my being fired.
"Seizing on this new vulnerability, they began trafficking me to their friends. By that time I was trapped.
"I was assaulted, raped and trafficked countless times in New York and Florida during a three-year period.
"At one point I became pregnant (by whom I am unsure) and aborted the baby.
"Things happened that were so traumatising that to this day I’m unable to speak about them; I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe them.
"In the most literal sense of the word, Epstein and Maxwell terrified me."
Victim's message to Maxwell
Ms Ransome continues: "I came to New York to attend the trial. It was cathartic. I am glad the jury believed the victims and returned a guilty verdict. Sentence her to the rest of her life in prison. It will give us survivors a slight sense of justice.
"To Ghislaine, I say, you broke me but not my spirit."
Ms Ransome said abuse led to self harm
In more emotional testimony as part of her victim impact statement, Ms Ransome says: "I have never entered into normal relationship. I have no children, something I dreamed of. I attend meetings to treat alcoholism. I have had numerous relapses. Only by the grace of God do I continue to live. I have attempted suicide twice."
Sarah Ransome sobs in court
Ms Ransome, 37, who was born in Johannesburg to British parents, alleges she was sexually abused at Epstein’s private Virgin Island in 2006 aged 22. She claims Maxwell, 60, was aware of the abuse, and in one case, she says, Maxwell forced her into a room where Epstein raped her.
Ms Ransome is emotional in court.
"I experience flashbacks," she says.
" I am hyper vigilant and do not trust people easily. I will sometimes start crying for reasons I cannot always comprehend. I've been diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD and tendency to self-harm."
Virginia Roberts Giuffre statement
Ms Roberts Giuffre is not in court, but her statement is read out.
It says: "Together, you damaged me. Together, you did unspeakable things. I want to be clear: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible paedophile. But I only met him because of you."
British victim - Kate - speaks
"How you do anything is how you do everything," she says,
"Every person should have an equal fight to be protected. No person should be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Ghislaine's lack of remorse is the final insult."
Victim impact statements
The court is now hearing victim impact statements.
First up is Annie Farmer, who asks the judge to “take into account the ongoing suffering of the many women she abused and exploited, as we will continue to live with the memories of the ways she harmed us.”
She adds: "“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. Those things cannot be replaced.”
Guidelines are inadequate, say prosecution
"This is one of the rare cases for an above Guidelines sentence," says Alison Moe.
"The 2003 Guidelines were inadequate. Consider the sophistication of her predatory conduct. We ask the court to send a message no one is above the law."
Court back in session - government speaking
Alison Moe, an assistant US attorney, is addressing the court on behalf of the government.
She has started strong, demanding a sentence of at least 30 years.
"These girls were just kids.," she says.
"Maxwell used their dreams as a tool to abuse them. Look at her actions: she persuaded young girls to massage a middle aged man's feet? She groped a girl's chest.
"She saw two kind of people. Those who mattered and those who were disposable. She jet setted with Epstein; they molested kids together. These girls now woman are strong, they have shown the world. They carry the trauma."
The first court sketches
The first court sketches of Maxwell have been released.
Colour from the courtroom
While the courtroom is packed, there are only a small number of people allowed to use electronic devices. There is no television live stream either.
The Press Association reports that throughout the morning session of her sentencing hearing, Ghislaine Maxwell frequently played with her hair and adjusted her mask.
The public gallery at the courtroom in the Southern District of New York was full and overflow courtrooms were provided to the remaining members of the public.
Victims Sarah Ransome, Elizabeth Stein, Annie Farmer and the accuser known as "Kate" were all present in the courtroom, as well as controversial juror Scotty David.
Before the hearing, Maxwell entered the room with shackles round her ankles which rattled as she made her way to her seat.
Maxwell frequently took sips from her Fiji water, which was delivered to her by her sister Isabel before the hearing began.
What have we learned?
This has been an important morning for Ghislaine Maxwell.
The sentencing guidelines have been vastly reduced to between 15-and-a-half years to 19-and-a-half years.
They are of course, just guidelines - and the judge can go higher - but with the probation services recommending 20 years, it looks as if this is the range in which the sentence will settle.
Maxwell is 60 years old.
When we return
When the court comes back, says Judge Nathan: “I will hear from the parties as to what they contend a reasonable sentence is for Ms. Maxwell.”
She will hear from the government, victims, the defence and Maxwell if she wants to address the court.
The court is now taking a half-an-hour lunch break.
Longest sentence now unlikely
In a big victory for the defence, it appears that the highest sentence won't be applied, because Judge Nathan is using sentencing guidelines from 2003.
“The controlling date for ex-post facto purposes is the last date of the offence conduct,” she said.
The 2004 guidelines were beefed up and she could have been looking at up to 65 years in prison.
Now, the range has been set between 15.5 and 19.5 years.
Judge sets out guidelines
According to Inner City Press, which is in the courtroom and is permitted to use electronics, Judge Nathan says that she finds the guidelines range from 188 to 235 months. That's 15-and-a-half years to 19-and-a-half-years.
Maxwell's team disputing some facts
Maxwell's lawyers are trying to persuade the judge that she did not lead another criminal participant in her activities.
The court has found that she did 'supervise' at least one other person.
This means her sentenced is likely to be "enhanced" as she was clearly in a leadership position.
Before the sentencing hearing began, Sarah Ransome spoke to reporters outside the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.
She says that Ghislaine Maxwell should die in prison.
"Ghislaine must die in prison".
Sarah Ransome tells Sky's @joepike she's spent the "past 17 years in her own prison" for what Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein did to her - "I've been to hell and back", she adds.https://t.co/NNSC1QzGC0
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 pic.twitter.com/lgvRpUFe8k
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 28, 2022
Maxwell not a dangerous repeat offender, says lawyer
Maxwell's lawyers say that she is not a repeat dangerous sexual offender.
"She has never been accused of a crime in the 18 years since" (2004, when the last complaint was made against her in this trial) says Christian Everdell.
What were the complaints?
Ms Maxwell's lawyers appeared to counter assertions that:
Maxwell targeted Virginia Roberts Giuffre in the car park at Mar-a-Lago.
Epstein transferred $23 million to Maxwell during the conspiracy
Epstein bought Maxwell her New York townhouse
Judge Nathan has overruled all of them - saying there is evidence that each did happen.
She has now adopted the pre-sentencing report, which will remain under seal.
She is now turning to sentencing guidelines.
Judge ruling on a number of objections
Judge Alison Nathan has received a number of objections which the defence has made to the pre-sentencing report.
The report can have a significant influence on the final sentence handed down. It recommends 20 years.
Maxwell led in wearing ankle shackles and prison jumpsuit
Ghislaine Maxwell has been led into the courtroom by correctional officers. She is in a navy prison jumpsuit and has ankle shackles.
The packed courtroom was silent as she entered, reporters inside the room say.
The judge asks if she has read the pre-sentencing report.
"I have had the opportunity to read it," she replied.
Sentencing hearing begins
Ghislaine Maxwell's sentencing hearing for helping sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls has begun.
She is in prison uniform.
What happened in court as Maxwell's guilty verdict came in?
Our US correspondent Josie Ensor was in court as Maxwell's guilty verdict was handed down.
This is how the scene unfolded:
Will she name names in hope of leniency?
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.
Inside Maxwell's prison cell
Maxwell has already been held in detention at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Centre (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.
Who will speak in court on behalf of Maxwell?
Ghislaine Maxwell will be given the opportunity to speak in her own defence. It is most likely though that having not testified at her trial, she will choose to remain silent in court today.
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.
What happened at the trial?
The Telegraph has put together 11 key moments from Maxwell's trial in December.
The household manual, the bank statements, the photographs and the massage table being brought into the courtroom.
What to expect today
Maxwell's sentencing is due to begin at 11am in New York and 4pm in the UK.
The court will hear victim impact statements from seven women and also final representations from the government and Maxwell's lawyers.
The Judge, Alison Nathan, will then hand down the sentence.
She could decide to send Maxwell to jail for as many as 65 years.
Prosecutors have asked for between 30 and 55 years, while her lawyers are seeking no more than five. The department of parole recommended 20 years in its pre-sentencing report.
In any case, it is expected that Maxwell will launch an appeal as soon as is practical.