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Maxwell asks for leniency on convictions tied to Epstein sex ring

Attorneys for the erstwhile socialite Ghislaine Maxwell warn the court not to see their client as a stand-in for Jeffrey Epstein, whose death behind bars put accountability out of reach.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Ghislaine Maxwell faces decades in prison for her role in grooming victims for her former pedophile boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, but a new letter from Maxwell's defense team asks a New York federal judge for a significantly lenient prison sentence of four to five years.

"The Court cannot heal the wounds caused by Epstein by heaping on Ms. Maxwell’s shoulders the pain of every one of his victims, the outrage of society, the public scorn of the community, and then driving her out of the community forever,” Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in a 37-page letter to U.S. Circuit Judge Alison Nathan.

Judge Nathan presided over Maxwell's federal trial last year but has since been confirmed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She will sentence Maxwell in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, June 28.

Maxwell, 60, faces up to 55 years in prison after a jury convicted her on five of six counts. While the U.S. Probation Office called for a 20-year prison term in its final presentence investigation report, her attorney Christian Everdell says that recommendation puts Maxwell in "the same sentencing range that Jeffrey Epstein would face for the same offenses, even though he was indisputably the more culpable offender.”

Everdell, who is with the firm Cohen & Gresser, says the court should instead impose a sentence range of 51 to 63 months in prison.

In a separate sentencing memo, Maxwell’s attorneys call it “a travesty of justice for her to face a sentence that would have been appropriate for Epstein,” who hanged himself in a Manhattan detention center while he was awaiting a federal sex trafficking trial in 2019.

“Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser, and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification,” the lawyers wrote. “Indeed, had Ghislaine Maxwell never had the profound misfortune of meeting Jeffrey Epstein over 30 years ago, she would not be here.”

Judge Nathan must not use Maxwell as a “proxy” for Epstein, their warning continues.

“In the face of strong media and public uproar following Epstein’s death, the government faced an urgency to appease the renewed distress of Epstein’s accusers and to repair the tarnished reputations of the DOJ and BOP in whose custody Epstein died,” the submission states. “There would be no trial for Epstein and no public vindication and justice for his accusers. The government now had a huge hole to fill: Epstein’s empty chair.”

Prince Andrew poses with Virginia Giuffre at the home of Ghislaine Maxwell (right), the now-convicted recruiter for Jeffrey Epstein's sex-trafficking ring. (Photo courtesy of Giuffre via Courthouse News)

The lawyers also contend that Maxwell is entitled to leniency because she had a “difficult, traumatic childhood with an overbearing, narcissistic, and demanding father” that made her “vulnerable to Epstein.”

Maxwell met Epstein shortly after her father, British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, died in 1991 under suspicious circumstances after falling off a yacht named for her and while he faced allegations that he had illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds. “It is the biggest mistake she made in her life and one that she has not and never will repeat,” they wrote of Maxwell, who dated Epstein for a time in the 1990s.

The lawyers wrote that Maxwell now lives in the jail’s general population but had recently been the target of a credible death threat from a fellow female inmate who told at least three others that she had been offered money to murder Maxwell and that she planned to strangle her in her sleep.

“This incident reflects the brutal reality that there are numerous prison inmates who would not hesitate to kill Ms. Maxwell — whether for money, fame, or simple ‘street cred,’” the filing states.

Still, the attorneys note, Maxwell has eagerly assisted other female inmates, providing GED tutoring.

Six of Maxwell's siblings wrote to the court ahead of their sister's sentencing.

Judge Nathan repeatedly denied Maxwell’s bail despite her lawyers’ arguments that the pledge of her $22.5 million estate and a willingness to be watched 24 hours a day by armed guards would guarantee her appearance in court.

Maxwell pleaded not guilty to facilitating and participating in Epstein’s abuse of teenage girls during a 10-year period from around 1994 to 2004. These charges named Maxwell as a direct participant in and facilitator of a sex ring wherein teenage girls were induced to give Epstein massages that later escalated into recurring and escalating sexual episodes, including masturbation, penetrative sex and “orgies” with other adults.

At trial, prosecutors showed that Maxwell received more than $30 million from Epstein for her complicity.

The jury ultimately acquitted Maxwell on count 2, enticement of an individual under the age of 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, which applied only the victim who took the stand this past month under the pseudonym Jane.

In April 2022, Judge Nathan denied Maxwell’s motion for a retrial after a trial juror admitted that he failed to disclose his own past childhood sexual abuse during the jury selection process.

Later that month, Judge Nathan upheld Maxwell’s sex trafficking convictions, but also dropped three conspiracy counts she ruled to be multiplicitous.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Epstein on July 2, 2019, with sex-trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking. Epstein was found dead the following month on August 10, 2019, in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

The Department of Justice will submit the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation by next Wednesday, June 22.

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