NEW YORK, June 28 (Reuters) – U.S. sentencing guidelines call for Ghislaine Maxwell to spend between 15 and 20 years in prison for helping sex offender and globetrotting financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls, a judge said at Maxwell’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
U.S. Circuit Judge Alison Nathan is not bound by the guidelines but must consider them in determining how many years Maxwell, 60, deserves behind bars for recruiting and grooming girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein, then her boyfriend, between 1994 and 2004.
Maxwell’s monthlong trial in late 2021 was widely seen as the reckoning that Epstein – who killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at age 66 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial – never had.
It was one of the highest-profile cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse, often at the hands of wealthy and powerful people.
In often emotional and explicit testimony during the trial, Annie Farmer, a woman known as “Kate,” and two other women testified that Maxwell, who was found guilty on five counts, was a central figure in their abuse by Epstein.
In calculating the guidelines range of 188-235 months, Nathan agreed with prosecutors that two women who were not initially named in the July 2020 indictment against Maxwell were proved at the British socialite’s monthlong trial to have been victims.
But she decided that the federal guidelines recommended a much shorter sentence than the 30-years-to-life calculated by prosecutors.
Nathan will determine the sentence at the end of the hearing on Tuesday following arguments from prosecutors and defense lawyers, as well as statements from Farmer and Kate. Maxwell will also have the chance to speak.
Maxwell’s lawyers say she should be sentenced to no more than 5-1/4 years, arguing that she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes and had already spent significant time in jail.
At the outset of the hearing in Manhattan federal court, Nathan asked Maxwell – wearing a grey t-shirt and white face mask – whether she had read a pre-sentence report prepared by probation officers. Maxwell replied briefly to say that she did “have an opportunity” to read the document.
Maxwell was arrested in July 2020 and repeatedly denied bail. Since then, she has been held mostly at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), where she has complained of vermin and the scent of raw sewage in her cell. Her lawyers have compared her confinement conditions to those of Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Maxwell was placed on suicide watch over the weekend. However, her lawyers said she was not suicidal.
Nathan in April rejected Maxwell’s bid for an acquittal, but set aside guilty verdicts on two counts because they overlapped. That reduced Maxwell’s maximum possible sentence to 55 years from 65 years.