‘You opened the door to hell’ Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years over sex trafficking | World | News

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison

Judge Alison Nathan said she had taken into account Maxwell’s “lack of remorse” and the fact that she did not “accept responsibility” adding “the damage done to these girls is incalculable.” In a shock move before the sentence – and $750,000 fine was handed down – Maxwell, wearing navy prison overalls and ankle shackles stood up to address the court, saying: “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.”

The Oxford-educated daughter of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell was convicted late last year on five of six sexual abuse counts, the most serious for sex trafficking minors.

With 22 months already served while on remand and with good behaviour, Maxwell could be released in her mid to late seventies.

The British socialite, 60, and friend of Prince Andrew spoke minutes before being sentenced in New York.

As some of the traumatised women who had been abused watched on, Maxwell nashamedly claimed she too was a “victim”.

She had declined to give evidence during her trial but made a dramatic and desperate late intervention before she was sentenced.

Maxwell told the court after listening to statements from her victims: “It is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain and anguish expressed in the statements made here.

“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.

“I want to acknowledge their suffering. I empathise deeply with all of the victims in this case.”

She told the courtroom in the Southern District of New York: “I acknowledge with that I have been a victim of helping Jeffrey Epstein commit these crimes.

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Image: Getty)

“I believe that Jeffrey Epstein was a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalised life and fooled all of those in his orbit.

“Jeff Epstein should have been here before all of you. He should have stood before you in 2005, again in 2009 and again in 2019.

“All the many times he was accused, charged and prosecuted. But today it is not about Jeffrey Epstein ultimately,” she said.

“To you, all the victims… I am sorry for the pain that you experienced.”

Maxwell said she hoped her conviction would bring the victims some closure.

She continued: “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.”

In closing, Maxwell looked at her victims gathered in court telling them: “I am sorry for the pain that you experienced. “I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you pleasure.”

The convicted child trafficker was given the jail term after hoping to serve less than three years with time off for the 22 months she spent on remand.

She will be eligible to serve most of her sentence in the UK if she applies for a transfer back to Britain after three years in the States.

As well as the sentence, Judge Nathan also hit Maxwell with the maximum fine possible of $750,000 (£612,000).

The judge noted she was in line for a bequest of £8.2 million from Epstein.

Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said she had not been given the money and does not expect to.

The judge replied she still has reason to believe Maxwell has the means to pay the fine.

Sternheim requested the Brit be sent to the low-security female prison in Danbury, Connecticut and enrolled in a treatment program to address past familial and other trauma.

The judge agreed to make such a recommendation to the Bureau of Prison, though it’s up to that agency to make the final decision.

Before imposing the 20-year sentence, Judge Nathan summarised the cases of several of the victims, including ‘Jane’ and ‘Kate’.

She said Maxwell and Epstein used a “playbook” over the years, and the result was “incalculable” damage to their victims.

“The sentence I impose must reflect the gravity of Ms Maxwell’s conduct,” she said.

“A substantial sentence will send an unmistakable message that those who engage in the sexual abuse and trafficking of underage victims will be held accountable by the law.

“The rule of law demands, and this court agrees, that whether you are rich or powerful or entirely unknown, nobody is above the law.”

Judge Nathan added: “It is important to emphasise that although Epstein was central to this criminal scheme, Ms Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein or as a proxy for Epstein.

She called the crimes “heinous and predatory.”

Before she was led away, Judge Nathan told Maxwell: “A sentence of 240 months is sufficient and no graver than necessary.”

The fallen socialite was convicted in December last year of sex trafficking minors, conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity for her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein.

She was also found guilty of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the packed New York courtroom sat in complete silence as various victims of Maxwell were heard.

They each told how they had fallen prey to the Briton and her lover Epstein before going on to ensure systematic abuse.

Before Judge Nathan passed sentence, prosecutor Alison Moe told the court: “Maxwell trapped young girls in a horrifying nightmare.”

Their pain “is real and it matters,” she said.

“What Maxwell did in the years that followed to Jane and Kate and Annie and Virginia and Carolyn and Melissa was almost unspeakable.

“These kids had hopes and dreams for their future and the defendant used those dreams to abuse them.

“What kind of person leads young girls to massage the feet of a middle-aged man?

“What kind of person gets a 16-year-old girl in a ranch in the middle of nowhere?

“What kind of person flies around on a plane with underage girls so when her boyfriend always has someone to touch?”

She went on: “Maxwell was an adult woman and she made choices, week in, week out for years to commit crimes with Jeffrey Epstein, to be his right hand, to make his crimes possible.

“Those choices were hers and they have to have serious consequences

“What’s more, her actions betrayed a disturbing view of the world we live in.

“To Maxwell, there were two kinds of people in this world – the people who really matter and the people who were disposable.”

After reviewing the case’s facts, Judge Alison Nathan said, “I find that the defendant’s criminal activity was extensive.”

On Tuesday night, as Maxwell settled into her first night knowing her sentence, US lawyers said Prince Andrew should still have “concerns”.

As she was sentenced, lawyer Brad Edwards, who secured the Duke of York’s sex accuser Virginia Giuffre a £12 million out-of-court settlement, appealed to the FBI not to stop their investigation.

Asked outside New York’s federal courthouse yesterday about how he felt about others possibly involved with Maxwell and Epstein, he said: “Let’s hope they’re the next target.”

Following the sentence, lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents several Epstein victims and a witness who claims to have seen Andrew with Ms Giuffre together, said prosecutors should not rest.

She said: “We call upon the FBI to fully investigate Prince Andrew.

“Virginia Giuffre’s civil case should be just the beginning. Everyone associated with Epstein and Maxwell should be carefully investigated so that the victims can finally get justice.”

Before being brought to justice, Maxwell and Epstein, who committed jail cell suicide in August 2019 as he awaited trial, were friends with the Duke of York.

They spent time at several royal households including Balmoral as his guests, while the billionaire US financier entertained the Prince at his palatial homes in New York, Palm Beach, the Caribbean and New Mexico.

During their time together, Epstein’s ‘teen sex slave’ Giuffre claimed she was forced to sleep with Andrew on three occasions on Epstein and Maxwell’s orders.

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years

Prince Andrew on Tuesday night declined to comment (Image: Getty)

The Duke and his legal team vehemently denied her claims.

Giuffre later brought a civil case against the Prince in New York, which was later settled with an out-of-court £12 million payment made by the royal earlier this year. The pay out was made with no admission of liability.

During her trial, four women gave evidence against Maxwell.

Farmer gave evidence using her real name.

Two other women – Kate and Jane – used pseudonyms, while Carolyn only used her first name.

Kate was a former model from the UK who told jurors during the trial how Maxwell invited her to her London home, where she was told to “have a good time” after finding Jeffrey Epstein naked inside.

She told the court that the British socialite namedropped she was friend with Prince Andrew before asking the victim, who was 17 at the time, to find someone to give the paedophile “a blowj**” as she was told he needed sex three times a day.

Yesterday Kate told Judge Nathan: “She doesn’t think that what she did is wrong. She is not sorry and she would do it again.”

Brave Annie Farmer told the justice: “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.”

In her victim impact statement, Brit Sarah Ransome, who grew up in Scotland and did not give evidence in the trial, said the two turned her into “nothing more than a sex toy with a heartbeat”.

She said she was so traumatised by the experience she tried to kill herself by launching herself off a cliff into shark-infested water on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.

“I was nothing more than a sex toy with a heartbeat and soul used to entertain Epstein, Maxwell and others,” she said.

“On one visit to the island, the sexual demands, degradation and humiliation ensued me to try to escape by jumping off a cliff into shark-infested waters.

“I was caught by Maxwell and company moments before jumping.

“At the time, that extremely risky escape seemed more appealing than being raped one more time”.

Another victim, Elizabeth Stein, told how she had an abortion after being raped and trafficked.

Other victims discussed during the trial but who did not provide testimony included Ms Giuffre and Teresa Helm.

Over her three-week trial in December, the jury heard how Maxwell’ served up’ underage girls for Epstein and relished her role as the ‘Lady of the House’ at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

Between 1994 and 2004, Maxwell was Epstein’s “right hand” and paid £165 for sexualised massages or even took part in the abuse.

The jury was told that the victims, some as young as 14, were given a similar amount of money if they brought friends to Epstein.

Carolyn testified that she was one of several underprivileged teens who lived near Epstein’s Florida home in the early 2000s and took up an offer to give massages in exchange for $100 (£82) bills.

Maxwell made all the arrangements, Carolyn told the jury, even though she knew the girl was only 14 at the time.

Kate said she was recruited by Maxwell in London in 1994 when she was 17 and described vividly how she invited her round for tea and then asked her back to give Epstein a massage.

Jane said in 1994 when she was only 14, she was instructed to follow Epstein into a pool house at the Palm Beach estate, where he masturbated on her.

She told the jury: “I was frozen in fear”, adding that the assault was the first time she had ever seen a penis. She also directly accused Maxwell of participating in her abuse.

Ms Giuffre, who could not attend yesterday’s hearing person due to a medical issue, provided a statement to the court through her lawyer.

It read: “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.”

She added: “You deserve to spend the rest of your life in a jail cell. You deserve to be trapped in a cage.”

Prince Andrew on Tuesday night declined to comment.

This is the full victim impact statement by Virginia Giuffre

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.

Thank you, your honour.

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced

Ghislaine in 1991 (Image: AP)

Maxwell’s background

With her crooked father dead, the family fortune gone and her place in London’s elite social circles left in tatters, Ghislaine Maxwell opted for life in New York, writes Christopher Bucktin. The daughter of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell traded her family’s 53-room Oxfordshire mansion for a modest Manhattan apartment.

However, she was soon rising back to the top, flying on private jets, holidaying around the world and living in multi-million dollar homes thanks to her new boyfriend – paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Those who knew Maxwell said the US financier – the son of a Brooklyn gardener who went on to become a billionaire – filled the void left by her beloved father.

But although many saw the raven-haired Brit and the Wall Street titan as one of New York’s power couples, the reality was far more sinister.

The couple used their wealth as a philanthropic facade.

And Maxwell’s femininity to lure and recruit teenage girls into their sick world of abuse.

Today, with Epstein dead after committing suicide while awaiting his own trial, Maxwell is now in danger of dying in prison after she was sentenced to ** years.

The fallen socialite was convicted in December last year of sex trafficking minors, conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She was also found guilty of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

Christopher Bucktin

Prosecutors say despite Epstein being the head of the pyramid of crimes “Maxwell played an instrumental role in the horrific sexual abuse of multiple young teenage girls.”

They added: “Maxwell identified, groomed, and abused multiple victims, while she enjoyed a life of extraordinary luxury and privilege. In her wake, Maxwell left her victims permanently scarred with emotional and psychological injuries.

“That damage can never be undone, but it can be accounted for in crafting a just sentence for Maxwell’s crimes.”

Government attorneys appeared particularly angered over Maxwell’s gilded life and how despite being given every possible start a child could wish for she turned into a sexual predator using her feminity to lure girls in for Epstein.

“Although many defendants come before sentencing courts with compelling mitigating factors from difficult upbringings, Maxwell is not among them,” prosecutor Damian Williams told Judge Nathan.

“She has enjoyed a remarkable life of privilege, having lived in luxury and moved in social circles among the famous and powerful.

“And while the defendant may have had a marginally less positive experience than other exceptionally wealthy children, it is difficult to see how stern conversation at the family dinner table is an excuse for participating in a child exploitation scheme.”

He was, of course, talking about Maxwell’s tyrant father who she used to beg for a more lenient sentence.

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced

People who knew her and Epstein say they two were a perfect fit’ (Image: Getty)

Friends of Maxwell say Epstein offered his then-girlfriend the life her dad – or Captain Bob as he liked to be known – once lavished on her.

The now 60-year-old grew up as the favourite child of her father living in Headington Hill Hall in Oxford from which he rented for £2,400 a year from the local council.

He restored the mansion, which had become dilapidated, moving in his nine children and wife Betty.

The tycoon later described it as “the best council house in the country” while locals called it “Maxwell House.”

Before his death in 1991 aged 68 – after he fell overboard his yacht, aptly named Lady Ghislaine while cruising off the Canaries – the tycoon was valued to have a fortune of £1.6billion.

But suspicions remained around his drowning after he was discovered to have looted £735 million from the pension funds of his employees including at the Mirror newspaper he owned.

And while his sons, Ian and Kevin, (Just Kevin was tried) who was later tried and acquitted of fraud arising from his role in his father’s companies, took the brunt of the attention following their father’s death, Ghislaine managed to carry on living the high life without much attention.

By the time of her dad’s death, she had already moved to Manhattan, where her father had many business interests, including ownership of the New York Daily News.

Some claim Oxford graduate Maxwell fled London for the Big Apple to escape the shame of her father’s criminality.

People who knew her and Epstein say they two were a “perfect fit.”

While the socially inept billionaire provided her with the lifestyle she loved, Maxwell offered the connections he craved, including Prince Andrew.

Although their relationship faltered she still stood by the American even after he pleaded guilty in June 2008 following a two-year investigation to procuring a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution by minors.

Although he had faced up to 20 years, he was handed an 18-month prison sentence in a controversial plea deal.

For more than a decade, after meeting in the early nineties, Maxwell was pivotal in organising parties at her lover’s £62 million Manhattan home.

The property, which he boasted was the single biggest townhouse in New York, held one celebration just weeks after the shamed businessman was released from jail in 2010.

The “guest of honour” was the Duke of York, who dined alongside Woody Allen and several others.

Called “the lady of the house” by Epstein’s friends who included Bill Clinton, to the billionaire’s victims, she was known as his “madam”.

She looked after his homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the Caribbean while helping to build and maintain his social relationships.

But aside from her role, one of her main responsibilities Epstein’s former Palm Beach employee, Juan Alessi said during her trial, was to find girls to help fill his seemingly insatiable appetite for massages.

The Brit, who was the youngest of her father’s nine children, has now been found to have not only recruited teenage girls but trained them to satisfy the billionaire’s sick sexual lust.

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Comment by Richard Palmer – Royal Correspondent

Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentencing is another nail in the coffin of Prince Andrew’s tattered reputation but she has stood by her old pal to the last.

Friends said she would never sell him out and, despite the conditions she has endured at the grim and notorious Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn since her arrest in July 2020, she has proved them right.

Critics believe Andrew, 62, will forever be tainted by his friendship with Maxwell, a convicted sex trafficker, and her late sometime boyfriend and then boss Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile.

But in spite of the Duke of York’s decision to pay millions in an out-of-court settlement to Virginia Giuffre who says she was trafficked and forced to sleep with the Queen’s son, Maxwell, 60, has remained quiet about him.

She has never once suggested that Andrew did anything wrong during the times he spent with her, Epstein, and the American financier’s young female employees at various locations around the world.

The Duke of York described in his ill-fated interview with BBC Newsnight in 2019 how he met Ghislaine when she was a student at Oxford University. She graduated with a degree in modern history with languages from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1985. At the time he was in the Royal Navy. It was through Ghislaine that he met Epstein in 1999 and, he maintains, throughout their friendship it was Ghislaine who was the link between them.

Andrew and Ghislaine are believed to have dated for a while in 2000 and 2001, although they have never confirmed it.

Certainly they spent a good deal of time together during that period.

Paul Page, a former palace police officer, has described how Ghislaine would come and go from morning until evening when Andrew was at Buckingham Palace, leading him and colleagues to believe the pair were in an intimate relationship.

“Ghislaine Maxwell has lived a life of luxury and privilege which included unrestricted access to Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace unlike no other person I have ever seen,” he said yesterday. “He has important questions to answer which will not go away.”

They were in New York and Florida together. Maxwell and Epstein attended Andrew’s 40th birthday party at Windsor Castle in June 2000. Andrew and Ghislaine were pictured at Royal Ascot together and at the high society wedding in Wiltshire of the Duke’s former girlfriend, Aurelia Cecil.

In October 2000 Andrew and Maxwell were pictured together at Heidi Klum’s Halloween party in Manhattan and in December that year the Duke hosted Maxwell and Epstein to a “straightforward shooting weekend” at Sandringham.

FBI officers had been keen to interview Andrew about what if anything he knew of a sex trafficking ring involving Epstein, Maxwell and some of their wealthy friends.

But with Epstein dead and Maxwell now incarcerated, will their investigations now go any further?

Vicky Ward, one of the journalists who first investigated Epstein wrote yesterday that the powerful men who enabled Epstein have endured. “Their reputations and their very lives depend on the truth never getting out,” she wrote.

“So remember that as Ghislaine Maxwell goes down. She’s going down for herself, yes. But she’s also going down for them. And, well, that’s a problem.”

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