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Ghislaine Maxwell ‘deserves at least 30 years in prison’

Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein (US Department of Justice/PA)
Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein (US Department of Justice/PA)

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell should spend at least 30 years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of teenage girls over a 10-year period by her former boyfriend, financier Jeffrey Epstein, prosecutors say in written arguments.

Prosecutors said she should serve between 30 years and 55 years in prison, reflecting the federal sentencing guidelines.

They made their recommendations to the judge, who will preside over a sentencing hearing on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

The 60-year-old Maxwell was convicted in December of sex trafficking and other crimes after a month-long trial that featured evidence from four women who said they were abused in their teens.

Defence lawyers said in a sentencing submission last week that she should spend no more than five years in prison and should not pay for Epstein’s crimes, since he was the mastermind and principal abuser and “orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification”.

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell (US Department of Justice/PA)

Epstein took his own life in 2019 in jail as he awaited a Manhattan federal sex trafficking trial.

But prosecutors said Maxwell played an “instrumental role in the horrific sexual abuse of multiple young teenage girls” between 1994 and 2004 at some of Epstein’s palatial residences.

They called her crimes “monstrous”.

“As part of a disturbing agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, 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,” prosecutors wrote.

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

Prosecutors also urged the judge to reject Maxwell’s pleas for leniency on the grounds that she has suffered in extraordinary ways in jail while awaiting trial and afterward.

Defence lawyers said she has faced death threats and harsh conditions that have caused her to lose hair and weight.

Maxwell’s appearance at trial proved those claims were wrong, prosecutors said, adding: “The defendant is perfectly healthy, with a full head of hair.”

They said Maxwell “has enjoyed remarkable privileges as a high-profile inmate that vastly exceed the benefits accorded to the average inmate. It is unsurprising that a woman who had led a life of incredible luxury should complain about her life as a prisoner, but that fact does not come close to meriting leniency at sentencing, much less the extraordinary degree of leniency the defendant seeks.”

Prosecutors also attacked claims by Maxwell’s lawyers that she suffered “a credible death threat” in jail, saying that an internal probe of the purported threat revealed that an inmate remarked to someone in passing something to the effect of: “I’d kill her if someone paid me a million dollars.”

As a result, they said, someone who overheard the remark reported it and the inmate was moved from the housing unit.

They also cited what they described as Maxwell’s “complete failure to address her offence conduct and her utter lack of remorse. Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can.”

Maxwell’s efforts to cast aspersions on the motives of the government for prosecuting her and her claim that she is being held responsible for Epstein’s crimes are “absurd and offensive”, prosecutors said.

“Maxwell was an adult who made her own choices. She made the choice to sexually exploit numerous underage girls. She made the choice to conspire with Epstein for years, working as partners in crime and causing devastating harm to vulnerable victims,” they said.

Prosecutors said nearly all of the 22.5 million dollars (£18.4 million) in assets that Maxwell claimed in a bail proposal that was never granted was given to her by Epstein.

“The defendant’s access to wealth enabled her to present herself as a supposedly respectable member of society, who rubbed shoulders with royalty, presidents, and celebrities. That same wealth dazzled the girls from struggling families who became the defendant and Epstein’s victims,” prosecutors said.

The sentencing submission also included quotes from letters written to the judge by women who gave evidence during the trial, including an ex-model who said “the consequences of what Ghislaine Maxwell did have been far reaching for me”.

“I have struggled with, and eventually triumphed over, substance use disorder. I have suffered panic attacks and night terrors, with which I still struggle. I have suffered low self esteem, loss of career opportunities. I have battled greatly with feeling unable to trust my own instincts in choosing romantic relationships,” she wrote.