Ghislaine Maxwell: US prosecutors urge 30-year minimum prison sentence

Ghislaine Maxwell should get at least 30 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking when she is sentenced next week for her role in facilitating the abuse of teenage girls by Jeffrey Epstein, New York federal prosecutors have said in court filings.

“Ghislaine Maxwell sexually exploited young girls for years. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of her crimes and the harm she caused. Her crimes demand justice,” they said in a court filing on Wednesday. “The government urges the court to impose a sentence within the applicable guidelines range of 360 to 660 months’ imprisonment.”

The prosecution’s filing comes one week after Maxwell’s lawyers argued that she should receive “well below” the 20-year sentence recommended by sentencing officials. Although Maxwell’s defense attorneys and prosecutors each make their arguments for an appropriate sentence, the decision ultimately rests with Alison Nathan, the judge.

“Maxwell’s conduct was shockingly predatory,” prosecutors said in arguing for a lengthy sentence. “She was a calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse.

“Not only did her conduct exhibit a callous disregard for other human beings, but her practice of targeting vulnerable victims reflects her view that struggling young girls could be treated like disposable objects.”

Maxwell was convicted on 29 December for her role in the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls, some as young as 14, who she brought into his orbit. She will be sentenced on 28 June. She maintains her innocence.

Epstein was apprehended by federal authorities in July 2019, on sex-trafficking counts. He killed himself in a New York City federal jail while his case was pending.

In their bid for leniency, Maxwell’s lawyers contended that her jail conditions were harrowing, alleging that “an inmate in Ms Maxwell’s unit threatened to kill her, claiming that an additional 20 years’ incarceration would be worth the money she’d receive for murdering Ms Maxwell”.

They also argued that an emotionally abusive childhood – at the hands of an emotionally explosive father, the publishing baron Robert Maxwell – primed her for Epstein’s influence. Robert Maxwell was killed in a boating accident shortly after his daughter moved to New York in 1991 to launch a magazine for his publishing empire.

“Her relationship with Epstein began at a moment of extreme vulnerability [in] Ghislaine’s life after the tragic death of our father. He, our father, was a powerful and dominant figure,” several of her siblings claimed in sentencing filings.

“And as elder siblings, we witnessed our father taking Ghislaine under his wing, whereby she became over-dependent on his approval and vulnerable to his frequent, rapid mood swings, huge rages and rejections,” they said. “This led her to becoming very vulnerable to abusive and powerful men who would be able to take advantage of her innate good nature.”

“It is striking that Ghislaine did not show any perverse behavior before she met Epstein. Nor did she show any after leaving him, which she eventually managed to do,” they claimed. “The effect of our father’s psychologically abusive treatment of her, foreshadowed Epstein’s own ability to exploit, manipulate and control her.”

“She had a difficult, traumatic childhood with an overbearing, narcissistic and demanding father. It made her vulnerable to Epstein, whom she met right after her father’s death,” Maxwell’s lawyers said. “It is the biggest mistake she made in her life and one that she has not and never will repeat.”

Prosecutors criticised this argument, saying that Maxwell’s upbringing did not support a lesser sentence.

“Although many defendants come before sentencing courts with compelling mitigating factors from difficult upbringings, Maxwell is not among them. She has enjoyed a remarkable life of privilege, having lived in luxury and moved in social circles among the famous and powerful,” they wrote.

“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.”

Elsewhere in the document, prosecutors also insisted that Maxwell wasn’t passive in her role in facilitating Epstein’s abusive behavior, saying, “the defendant acted as an organizer and leader of a massive operation that spanned many years.”

“In operating as the lady of the house and as Epstein’s right hand, the defendant was responsible for overseeing and organizing extensive logistics involved in facilitating the sexual abuse of multiple minors and ensuring a culture of silence that prevented that scheme from being uncovered,” they wrote. “Epstein and the defendant were two knowing participants who took the lead in identifying, enticing, and grooming minor girls to be abused.”

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