After US Circuit Judge Alison Nathan handed down a 20-year prison term to convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, her lawyer delivered a clear message.
Standing on the steps of a Manhattan courthouse, Maxwell’s lead defence attorney Bobbi Sternheim said her client will appeal.
“Our client Ghislaine Maxwell has been vilified, pilloried, and it left little room for her to be treated fairly because even before she stepped forward, into this courthouse, she was being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion,” she said.
“Ghislaine will appeal this case, and we are confident she will prevail on appeal.”
Maxwell, 60, was convicted on five counts in late December for helping her ex-lover, sex offender and globetrotting financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls between 1994 and 2004.
On Wednesday morning (Australian time) she was led away in shackles after Judge Nathan’s sentencing.
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped accountability, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment he truly deserved,” Ms Sternheim said.
Her lawyers had proposed she serve no more than five-and-a-quarter years, while prosecutors suggested she serve between 30 and 55 years.
She was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $750,000 fine.
Where the British socialite is going
After lodging dozens of complaints through her legal team for being kept in squalid conditions inside the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, where she has been since mid-2020, Maxwell is off to FCI [Federal Correctional Institution] Danbury in Connecticut to live alongside 1024 inmates.
When Judge Nathan asked Ms Sternheim where her client should be sent to live out the next two decades, she requested the low-security federal prison for men and women, located in Danbury, Connecticut.
She also requested Maxwell join the FIT [Female Integrated Treatment] program, run by psychologists.
Its satellite facility, FCI Dublin in California, has previously been dubbed “Club Med” and is where Desperate Housewives actor Felicity Huffman completed a 14-day prison sentence and where cross-stitch, origami and steak are on the menu.
According to US website prisoninsight.com, Maxwell isn’t the first high-profile inmate to arrive on the main Danbury campus.
“FCI Danbury is one of the most well-known federal prisons in the United States because it is where Piper Kerman – author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison – served 13 months for money laundering,” it wrote.
The hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black is based on Kerman’s time at FCI Danbury.
Other notable inmates that served time include Grammy winner Lauryn Hill, Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice, and real estate investor Leona Helmsley.
Inmates can have multiple visitors, receive unlimited mail, conduct bartering, make phone calls, send emails and can buy food, snacks, electronics and clothing.
Outside Maxwell’s FIT commitments, she can join a horticulture course, learn how to become an electrician, animal trainer, baker or teacher’s aide.
‘Cowards’: Who else was involved?
It is unclear whether prosecutors will interview Maxwell about other high-profile powerful players in Epstein’s network, but federal prosecutor Damian Williams said no one was above the law.
“This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice,” he said.
During Maxwell’s trial in December, CNN reported Epstein’s former pilot Larry Visoski testified that former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew aboard Epstein’s private plane, as did renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman.
He remembered Prince Andrew, Maine Senator George Mitchell, Ohio Senator John Glenn, Les Wexner and actor Kevin Spacey were also on flights.
CNN reported none of the high-profile passengers mentioned in Mr Visoski’s testimony are alleged to have committed any wrongdoing in relation to the ongoing trial.
Outside court, attorney Brad Edwards, who represented more than 60 of Epstein’s victims, called for other people to come forward with the truth, and was asked by one reporter about Mr Clinton.
“How about Bill Clinton? There’s a lot of people that have a lot of information. We’ve said for a long time, they know things, and they should be speaking and the time is now,” Mr Edwards replied.
She was once ‘sophisticated’ and ‘impressive’
The daughter of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, Maxwell attempted to start a new life in Manhattan after his death in 1991 and met Epstein the following year.
Robert Maxwell was found drowned after apparently falling from his yacht – called Lady Ghislaine – off the Tenerife coast.
Despite attempts from Maxwell’s defence counsel to distance her from Epstein, a vast array of photographs of the pair in a variety of exotic locations surfaced during her trial, with images of her massaging the convicted sex offender’s feet suggesting a close relationship.
Her trial heard the pair bragged about being friends with high-profile figures.
With the fortune he made from his financial dealings, Epstein and Maxwell lived a life of luxury jetting around the world and living at the millionaire’s many properties.
The Maxwell-Epstein timeline
- March 2005: Police in Palm Beach, Florida, begin investigating Jeffrey Epstein
- July 2006: Epstein is arrested after a grand jury indicts him on a single count of soliciting prostitution
- June 2008: Epstein pleads guilty to state charges – one count of soliciting prostitution and one count of soliciting prostitution from someone under the age of 18. He is sentenced to 18 months’ jail
- July 2009: Epstein is released from jail. For the next decade, multiple women who say they are Epstein’s victims wage a legal fight to get his federal non-prosecution agreement voided. One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, says in her lawsuits that, starting when she was 17, Epstein and his girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, set up sexual encounters with royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen and other rich and powerful men, including Prince Andrew. Those men deny the allegations
- November 2018: The Miami Herald revisits the handling of Epstein’s case
- July 6, 2019: Epstein is arrested on federal sex-trafficking charges
- August 10, 2019: Guards find Epstein dead in his cell at a federal jail in New York City. Investigators conclude he killed himself
- July 2, 2020: Federal prosecutors in New York charge Maxwell with sex crimes
- December 30, 2021: After a month-long trial, a jury convicts Maxwell of multiple charges, including sex trafficking, conspiracy and transportation of a minor for illegal sexual activity
- June 28, 2022: Maxwell is sentenced to 20 years in prison.