Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and Jeffrey Epstein accomplice who was convicted of sex trafficking underage girls, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday.
Maxwell, 60, was found guilty in December 2021 on five counts, including sex trafficking of minors, for a scheme in which she recruited and groomed teenage girls for her lover Epstein to sexually abuse for years. Her arrest in July 2020 came years after investigations and litigation against Epstein, who allegedly operated an underage sex trafficking ring and raped dozens of underage girls.
Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial for his alleged federal crimes.
Prosecutors had asked for Maxwell to be sentenced to between 30 and 55 years in prison for her crimes, above the 15½ to 19½ years recommended by sentencing guidelines.
She was convicted on conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
Maxwell's attorneys had argued for a lighter sentence of no more than five years. In court filings, they said Maxwell's "difficult, traumatic childhood" and her dysfunctional relationship with her father "made her vulnerable to Epstein, whom she met right after her father's death."
Judge Alison Nathan sentenced Maxwell on three of the five counts, ruling that the victims' disturbing testimony during trial and Maxwell's "direct and repeated participation in a horrific scheme" deserved a sentence slightly above the sentencing guidelines, CNN reported.
The judge also fined Maxwell $750,000, the maximum permitted under the law.
"It is important to emphasize 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," Nathan said Tuesday before handing down Maxwell's sentence, according to the New York Times. She said Maxwell's crimes were "heinous and predatory."
In a statement to her victims before sentencing, Maxwell said she hoped they would find closure, according to CNN.
"Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you," Maxwell said. "It is not about Epstein, ultimately. It is for me to be sentenced."
"I am sorry for the pain that you've experienced," she added. "I hope my conviction ... brings you closure."
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams applauded the sentence in a statement.
"Today's sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children," he said. "This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice."
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim said Maxwell will appeal her conviction.