Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking victims have rejoiced as she was jailed for 20 years in New York.
They hailed her prison term as a “big victory” after a judge said the British socialite had done “incalculable damage to young girls” and had shown no remorse prior to sentencing.
Maxwell, 60, blamed paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to the very end, saying meeting him had been “the greatest regret of my life”. She had shuffled into the courtroom in New York for her sentencing shackled and wearing prison clothes.
Then she sat motionless as her victims took it in turns to confront their tormentor and denounce her as a monster.
In scenes decried by Maxwell’s lawyer as an “open-mic bully pulpit”, four of them delivered devastating speeches exhorting the judge to jail her for life.
Others submitted excoriating written statements, including Prince Andrew’s accuser Virginia Roberts, who lambasted her for “using your femininity to betray us”.
Judge Alison Nathan offered Maxwell a chance to speak and, having kept silent throughout her trial, she surprised those in court when she stumbled to the podium, the chains around her ankles clanking, and delivered a two-minute address, saying: “To all of you victims who came to court, I am sorry for the pain that you experienced.”
In a cut-glass British accent without faltering, she said: “I hope that my conviction along with my harsh incarceration brings you closure. May this day help you travel from darkness to the light.”
But Maxwell still piled the blame on Epstein, who she claimed had “fooled” everyone.
Judge Nathan retorted that Maxwell was not being punished “in place of Epstein”, but for the pivotal role she had played in a “horribly damaging” and “heinous scheme”, adding: “Whether you are rich or poor, nobody is above the law.”
She said that while Maxwell had acknowledged the pain of her victims, in her earlier submissions there had been “no remorse or acceptance of responsibility” and that had merited a harsher prison term.
The judge also imposed a fine of AUD$1 million after hearing Epstein had bequeathed Maxwell AUD$14.4 million in his will.
Judge Nathan said Maxwell had operated a “horrific scheme to entice, transport and traffic underage girls” and that “she herself participated in some of the abuse”, agreeing with a pre-sentence report that concluded the fallen socialite was “heinous and predatory”.
Judge Nathan called Maxwell a “sophisticated adult woman” who lent a “veneer of safety” to Epstein before the victims were taken advantage of.
The criminal conduct was “extensive and far-reaching” and Maxwell had exhibited a “pattern of deflecting blame”.
Outside court, one of the victims, Annie Farmer, said she was satisfied justice had been done.
“Her statement was 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.”
But she added: “We’re very happy with the sentence.”
The tariff means Maxwell will not taste freedom until she is nearly 80.
She plans to appeal.
She was convicted last December of masterminding a sick scheme to round up schoolgirls on an industrial scale for her and financier Epstein to molest.
Maxwell’s various pleas for leniency – including that she had once featured on an “IRA hit list’ – failed dismally.
The daughter of the late tycoon Robert Maxwell, she once rubbed shoulders with two US presidents, a Pope and a parade of global Alisters, but was utterly abandoned by her VIP friends including Andrew, none of whom offered her a character reference.
Instead, she relied on a scrawled letter of support from a fellow inmate accused of running a £2million cocaine racket, and a handful of letters from her siblings describing her as a warm-hearted, kind, generous, funny, intelligent and loving person.
Her brother Kevin and sisters Isabel and Christine put on a show of solidarity in the public gallery of the Manhattan courtroom.
But they were no match for the powerful statements of Maxwell’s victims delivered with passion at a podium just three yards from her.
Miss Farmer, who was 16 when Maxwell groped her breasts, took the stand first and castigated her abuser for never acknowledging her crimes.
Then British accuser ‘Kate’ – who aged 18 was made to dress in a schoolgirl uniform to be molested by Epstein – said “cunning” Maxwell deserved no mercy.
She blamed her for “rape, strangulation and sexual assault” ordeals she had suffered at the hands of Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial.
Maxwell stared straight ahead as Kate fixed her with a hard stare and branded her “manipulative, cruel and merciless”, before returning to her seat shaking and weeping.
Maxwell remained seated between her two lawyers for most of the hearing and did not make any visible reaction behind her mask.
Her black hair appeared more unkempt than the last day of her trial in December.
She read from documents in a green legal file on her table and drank from a bottle of Fiji Water her sister had brought her – the same brand on a shopping list from the household manual for Epstein’s ‘house of sin’ in Palm Beach.
When Miss Farmer cried while reading her statement, Maxwell refused to look at her.
In the case of Sarah Ransome, who repeatedly burst into tears, Maxwell calmly sipped her coffee and stared ahead.
She said outside court before the hearing: “Ghislaine must die in prison because I’ve been in hell for the last seventeen years.”
A statement was read out from Miss Roberts, fresh from her £12million out-of-court settlement with Andrew, who vehemently denies her claims of rape.
She blasted Maxwell in a direct message saying: “Ghislaine, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you used your femininity to betray us.”
Victim Elizabeth Stein faced Maxwell as she said the heiress had robbed her of “all those things I assumed I would have in life – a career, success, a partner, family, a home, a legacy to be proud of“, adding: “One day, I met Maxwell who fed me to Jeffrey Epstein.”
Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim praised the “powerful” statements, adding: “We feel the pain.”
Several of the women shook their heads in disgust.
The 20-year term – of which she has already served two while on remand – is far less than the 55 years prosecutors had hoped for.
Maxwell’s team had pushed for just five years.
Miss Sternheim said outside court: “Ghislaine will appeal this case and we’re confident she will prevail on appeal.”
Maxwell will serve her sentence at low-security Danbury women’s prison in Connecticut.
There is no parole in the federal prison system, meaning Maxwell will serve the majority of her sentence but can earn a limited time off her term through good behaviour.
Additional reporting: Daniel Bates in New York Defiant: Ghislaine Maxwell, pictured by a court artist, delivers her statement yesterday. Left: With Epstein