Maxwell on Tuesday said it was her “greatest regret” to have ever met Epstein as the British socialite prepared to be sentenced for helping the sex offender and globetrotting financier sexually abuse underage girls.
Speaking in Manhattan federal court, Maxwell called Epstein a "manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who fooled everyone in his orbit, and said she was “sorry” for the pain that his victims experienced.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell (60) was convicted in December 2021 for recruiting and grooming girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein, then her boyfriend, between 1994 and 2004.
The stiff sentence of 20 years was the punctuation mark on a trial that explored the sordid rituals of a predator power couple who courted the rich and famous as they lured vulnerable girls as young as 14, and then exploited them.
Prosecutors said Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial, sexually abused children hundreds of times over more than a decade, and couldn’t have done so without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion and onetime girlfriend.
In December, a jury convicted Maxwell of sex trafficking, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and two conspiracy charges.
US District Judge Alison J Nathan, who also imposed a $750,000 fine, said “a very significant sentence is necessary” and that she wanted to send an “unmistakable message” that these kinds of crimes would be punished.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to give Maxwell 30 to 55 years in prison, while Maxwell's defence sought a lenient sentence of just five years.
Maxwell, wearing a blue prison uniform and a white mask to conform with coronavirus rules, sat quietly before the sentencing, looking ahead as Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe recounted how Maxwell subjected girls to “horrifying nightmares” by taking them to Epstein.
“They were partners in crime together and they molested these kids together,” she said, calling Maxwell “a person who was indifferent to the suffering of other human beings”.
When she had a chance to speak, Maxwell said she empathized with the survivors and that it was her “greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein”.
Maxwell called him “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life”, echoing her defence attorneys' assertions, in court filings calling for a lenient sentence, that Epstein was the true mastermind.
Maxwell, who denies abusing anyone, said she hoped that her conviction and her “unusual incarceration” bring some “measure of peace and finality”.
Several survivors described their sexual abuse, including Annie Farmer, whose voice cracked several times as she said “we will continue to live with the harm she caused us”.
Farmer said her sister and herself tried to go public with their stories about Epstein and Maxwell two decades ago, only to be shut down by the powerful couple through threats and influence with authorities.
Inside the crowded courtroom, three of Maxwell's siblings sat in a row behind her. Most of the others in attendance were members of the media.
Epstein and Maxwell’s associations with some of the world’s most famous people were not a prominent part of the trial, but mentions of friends like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Britain's Prince Andrew showed how the pair exploited their connections to impress their prey.
Over the past 17 years, scores of women have accused Epstein of abusing them. Many described Maxwell as acting as a madam who recruited them to give massages to Epstein.
The trial, though, revolved around allegations from only a handful of those women.
Four testified that they were abused as teens in the 1990s and early 2000s at Epstein’s mansions in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the Virgin Islands.
Three were identified in court only by their first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy: Jane, a television actress; Kate, an ex-model from the U.K.; and Carolyn, now a mom recovering from drug addiction. The fourth was Farmer, the sole accuser to identify herself in court by her real name, after speaking out publicly.
They described how Maxwell charmed them with conversation and gifts and promises that Epstein could use his wealth and connections to help fulfil their dreams.
Then, they testified, she led them to give massages to Epstein that turned sexual and played it off as normal.
In her victim impact statement, Virginia Giuffre, accused Maxwell of “opening the door to hell” by introducing her and other victims to Epstein.
Read the full statement from Ms Giuffre below:
Your honour, my name is Virginia Roberts Giuffre. For more than two years, from age 16 to 19, I was abused by Ghislaine Maxwell.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge and profusely thank the police, FBI investigators, prosecutors and judges who have invested their time and integrity in this case to hopefully set a precedent for victims and the hunters who prey upon them.
Now, if it pleases the court, I would like to address my victim impact statement directly to Ghislaine Maxwell.
Ghislaine, 22 years ago, in the summer of 2000, you spotted me at the Mar-a-Lago Hotel in Florida, and you made a choice. You chose to follow me and procure me for Jeffrey Epstein.
Just hours later, you and he abused me together for the first time. Together, you damaged me physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally.
Together, you did unthinkable things that still have a corrosive impact on me to this day.
I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible paedophile. But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you.
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.
When you did that, Ghislaine, you changed the course of our lives forever. You joked that you were like a new mother to us.
As a woman, I think you understood the damage you were causing - the price you were making us victims pay.
You could have put an end to the rapes, the molestations, the sickening manipulations that you arranged, witnessed and even took part in.
You could’ve called the authorities and reported that you were a part of something awful.
I was young and naive when we met, Ghislaine, but you knew that. In fact, you were counting on it.
My life as a young person was just beginning. You robbed me of that by exploiting my hopes and ambitions.
Ghislaine, the pain you have caused me is almost indescribable. Because of your choices and the world you brought me into, I don’t sleep. Nightmares wake me at all hours.
In those dreams, I relive the awful things you and others did to me and the things you forced me to do.
Those memories will never go away. I have trouble meeting new people without questioning if somehow they are going to hurt me, too.
I don’t allow my children to stay over at friends’ houses, or to walk down the street alone.
I don’t trust anyone to be near them without me or my husband close by.
I am hyper-vigilant, because I know that evil exists. You taught me that.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t ask ‘Why?’ Why, Ghislaine, did you enjoy hurting us so much?
I worry every single day and night that you will get away with it and evade being punished.
I will worry about that until you are brought to justice. And what should that justice look like?
Ghislaine, you deserve to spend the rest of your life in a jail cell. You deserve to be trapped in a cage forever, just like you trapped your victims.
But, Ghislaine, I want you to know that, while you tried to break me, you didn’t succeed.
Despite you, I have grown into a woman who tries to do good in the world - a woman who, on her best days, feels like she is making a difference.
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.