Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein. Evidence from the lawsuit.Image Brunopress

    The sentence of 20 years in prison is in line with the advice of the probation service, but is significantly lower than the 30 years demanded by the prosecutor. Maxwell, now 60, will most likely spend most of her remaining life in captivity. The sentencing order puts a temporary end to one of the most sensational abuse cases since the rise of the #MeToo movement. The trial of the prime suspect, multimillionaire and financier Jeffrey Epstein, never went through because he hanged himself in his cell in 2019. Maxwell is also believed to have played an important role in the abuse, so many see the case against her as the settlement with Epstein that his victims never got.

    Maxwell’s attorneys therefore argued throughout the trial that their client was wrongly held responsible for the actions of another. Yet, after a weeks-long trial and four days of deliberation, the jury found her guilty of five crimes committed between 1994 and 2004 in December last year. During that period, she recruited underage girls for her then-boyfriend Epstein. Because some of those crimes overlapped, the judge reduced the number of guilty pleas in April from five to three.

    Sex parties on private island

    She would have encouraged them to give Epstein massages with compliments, shopping trips and gifts such as lingerie. Sometimes Maxwell himself was present at those massages, which invariably ended in sex. The girls say they got several hundred dollars for it. Maxwell is also said to have recruited girls for Epstein’s infamous sex parties on his private island off the Virgin Islands, and at his homes in New York and Florida. The youngest woman to come forward with charges against Epstein was only 14 years old at the time of the abuse.

    Virginia Giuffre, one of the victims, who recently settled her sexual assault charges against Britain’s Prince Andrew, addressed Maxwell directly in her court statement: “You opened the doors to hell. But Ghislaine, I want you to know that although you tried to break me, you failed.’ Another victim, Annie Farmer, wrote that “the toxic combination of sexual exposure and exploitation, confusion, naivety and guilt led to great shame.” The anonymous ‘Kate’ describes dealing with Maxwell as ‘a rollercoaster ride, meant to disorientate and render me powerless as a vulnerable young girl’.

    Maxwell called her ex-boyfriend Epstein a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who fooled everyone around him. She also said she “regrets” the pain his victims had to endure. “It is the biggest regret of my life that I have ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” said Maxwell. Her lawyers have previously said they will appeal.