In a court filing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors made their case that Ghislaine Maxwell should receive a prison sentence that comports with the guidelines for the crimes of which she was convicted in December. A jury found the British heiress guilty of facilitating Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors, and the government submitted a sentencing memo that recommended between 30 and 55 years in prison.
Last week, Maxwell’s lawyers, in their own sentencing memo, asked for leniency: four to five years in prison. They made the case, as they had at trial, that she had been scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes. That argument hasn’t made much headway in the press, on social media, or in court, and prosecutors began their sentencing memo by positioning it as all the more reason to hold Maxwell accountable.
“If anything stands out from the defendant’s sentencing submission,” the federal district attorneys wrote, “it is her complete failure to address her offense conduct and her utter lack of remorse.”
“Maxwell was an adult who made her own choices,” they went on. “She made the choice to sexually exploit numerous underage girls. She made the choice to conspire with Epstein for years, working as partners in crime and causing devastating harm to vulnerable victims.”
Maxwell is set to be sentenced in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. The decision will bring some degree of finality to her case—she plans to appeal her conviction after sentencing—but the narrow scope of legal proceedings has meant that the broader story of Epstein’s wealth and crimes still contains considerable mystery. On Wednesday, federal prosecutors noted that the trial record made clear that there were many other victims, apart from those who testified in November and December, who were harmed by Maxwell and Epstein’s sexual abuse scheme. They pieced together what they could of Maxwell’s involvement in it all, emphasizing that, in addition to procuring Epstein’s victims, she sometimes participated in the abuse herself.
Prosecutors noted several times the extent of Maxwell’s wealth and the financial and social benefits she received through her connection to Epstein. “Beyond the lavish lifestyle that she enjoyed side-by-side with Epstein,” they wrote, “Maxwell also received a townhouse that Epstein bought for her in New York City, and Epstein transferred a total of approximately $23 million to Maxwell during the timeframe of the conspiracy.”
The victims who testified during Maxwell’s trial often invoked the struggles they had been navigating when they first met the socialite and she introduced them to Epstein. “Although there are many unsettling aspects of the defendant’s conduct,” prosecutors wrote on Wednesday, “what stands out from the trial record is that she worked with Epstein to select victims who she knew were vulnerable to exploitation.”
“It is not a coincidence that all of Maxwell’s victims came from single-mother households,” they added. “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.”
The extent of Maxwell’s privilege as a child and adult also served as the basis for the government’s response to some of the mitigating factors that her lawyers argued for last week. Maxwell’s attorneys had claimed that her father, the disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, verbally and physically abused her as a child. “While the defendant may have had a marginally less positive experience than other exceptionally wealthy children,” prosecutors wrote, “it is difficult to see how stern conversation at the family dinner table is an excuse for participating in a child exploitation scheme.”
For much of the time Maxwell has spent at a federal jail in Brooklyn since her July 2020 arrest, her complaints about the conditions there have formed a major subject of the coverage of her case. Last week, her attorneys claimed that the suffering she’s endured there ought to be reason to reduce her sentence. Prosecutors argued on Wednesday that she had in fact received better treatment at the Metropolitan Detention Center than the average inmate, and that her points about the facility amounted to moneyed whining. “Going from being waited on hand and foot to incarceration is undoubtedly a shocking and unpleasant experience,” they wrote.
On that note, the memo returned, as Maxwell’s case often has, to wealth. “Money is a key theme underlying the criminal conduct in this case,” prosecutors wrote. Her financial status, they argued, gave her access to celebrities and victims alike, and maintaining it provided the motivation for her to provide teenage girls to Epstein: “That wealth was the defendant’s reward.”