MANHATTAN (CN) — Sentencing the former socialite to 20 years in prison, a federal judge chided Ghislaine Maxwell on Tuesday for refusing to accept responsibility for her involvement with Jeffrey Epstein in the decadeslong operation of an underage sex ring.
U.S. Circuit Judge Alison Nathan made clear that Maxwell's long sentence is a reflection of the “heinous and predatory” abuse that the 60-year-old not only had a “pivotal role in facilitating” but in which she was an active, longtime participant.
“Ms. Maxwell was instrumental in the abuse of several underage girls, and she herself participated in some of the abuse," said Nathan, who has been elevated to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the six months since she presided over Maxwell’s District Court trial.
Maxwell spoke at the hearing for the first time about the crimes of which she was convicted but made it a point not to take responsibility for them.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell remarked in a six-minute speech from a plexiglass podium, calling theirs an association that “will forever and permanently stain me."
“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you,” she continued, wearing gray-blue prison garb over a white, long-sleeved shirt. “He should have stood before all of you in 2005, again in 2009, again in 2019.”
That Maxwell portrayed herself as yet another victim of Epstein, rather than as an accomplice, was not lost on Judge Nathan, who rejected the defense's argument that she is being punished as the late pedophile financier's proxy.
Just before delivering the 240-month sentence, Nathan noted that Maxwell did not express genuine remorse or acceptance of responsibility in her remarks, “consistent with a pattern of deflection of blame."
“Although Epstein was essential to the scheme. Ms Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein,” the judge made clear on Tuesday afternoon.
Maxwell spoke in broad terms about the underage girls whom she was convicted of luring into Epstein's sphere of influence and grooming for predatory abuse.
“I want to acknowledge their suffering and empathize — I empathize deeply with all the victims,” she said.
“It is my sincerest wish to all of this in this courtroom..that this days brings a terrible a chapter to an end," Maxwell continued. “May this day help you travel from darkness into the light."
Earlier during the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe said the case calls for an above-guidelines sentence “for the breathtaking scope of the defendant’s crime ... the sophistication of the defendant’s predatory conduct ... and the degree to which she psychologically manipulated her victims.”
“They were predators together; they were partners in crime together; and they molested children together," Moe said of the Maxwell and Epstein.
Maxwell faced up to 55 years in prison after a New York jury convicted her on five counts in December.
Her sentencing hearing at the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse occurred half a block up from the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein was found dead in 2019, ruled to have hanged himself while awaiting trial on federal charges that came over a decade after a cushy plea deal in Florida that massively limited his initial criminal exposure.
In the government's request last week that Maxwell receive a minimum 30-year sentence, prosecutors said Epstein sexually abused underage girls hundreds of times over more than a decade, and couldn’t have done so without the help of Maxwell, his longtime companion and onetime girlfriend.
“Maxwell’s conduct was shockingly predatory. She was a calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse,” prosecutors wrote.