NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell told a judge Wednesday that she should face no more than four to five years in prison for her sex trafficking conviction and role in financier Jeffrey Epstein’s decade-long sex abuse of teenage girls.
They said in a Manhattan federal court submission that Maxwell deserves leniency, calling it “a travesty of justice for her to face a sentence that would have been appropriate for Epstein,” who took his own life as he was awaiting a federal sex trafficking trial in New York in 2019.
“Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser, and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification,” the lawyers wrote. “Indeed, had Ghislaine Maxwell never had the profound misfortune of meeting Jeffrey Epstein over 30 years ago, she would not be here.”
They added in advance of a June 28 sentencing that Maxwell “is not an heiress, villain, or vapid socialite” and hasn't deserved the “drumbeat of public condemnation calling for her to be locked away for good.”
They said her life has been ruined and she has faced onerous and punitive jail conditions since her July 2, 2020, arrest that should earn a significant downward departure from sentencing guidelines. Probation officials recommended a 20-year sentence, but said her conviction could call for 25 to 30 years.
Her lawyers said probation calculated the guidelines wrong and that a proper calculation would result in no more than four to five years in prison.
The lawyers wrote that she now lives in the jail’s general population but had recently been the target of a credible death threat from a fellow female inmate who told at least three others that she had been offered money to murder Maxwell and that she planned to strangle her in her sleep. Still, they added, she has eagerly assisted other female inmates, providing GED tutoring.
Included in their submission were letters from six siblings.
The lawyers said Maxwell had been placed on suicide watch after the verdict and was told by a psychologist that she had opposed it, but the professional opinion was overridden by a directive from Washington, D.C.
The lawyers said leniency was also deserved because she had a “difficult, traumatic childhood with an overbearing, narcissistic, and demanding father” that made her “vulnerable to Epstein."
Maxwell met Epstein shortly after her father, British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, died in 1991 under suspicious circumstances after falling off a yacht named for her and while he faced allegations that he had illegally looted his businesses' pension funds.
“It is the biggest mistake she made in her life and one that she has not and never will repeat,” they said of their client, who was Epstein's girlfriend for a time in the 1990s.
They added that she has had two committed, long-term, loving relationships with men who had young children in the 15 years since her relationship with Epstein ended. They cited an eight-year relationship with a Miami lawyer and a 2013 relationship that led to a marriage that they wrote “could not survive the negative impact of this case nor a husband's association with his dishonored wife.”
The sentencing submission also cast Maxwell as the sole target by prosecutors to fill “Epstein's empty chair” after his suicide, saying four other women were named as co-conspirators or accomplices of Epstein during a prosecution of him in Florida over a decade ago, but charges were not pursued against any of them.
Prosecutors declined comment through a spokesperson. They will submit their own written arguments in advance of sentencing.
In its final report, the probation department recommended the 20-year prison term, which would be a slight downward departure from what sentencing guidelines would otherwise call for, Maxwell's lawyers said.
The Oxford-educated Maxwell, 60, who holds U.S., British and French citizenships, was convicted in December of recruiting teenage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004.
In April, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan upheld Maxwell's jury conviction, saying it was “readily supported” by extensive witness testimony and documentary evidence at a month-long trial.
Earlier this year, Nathan refused to toss out Maxwell's conviction on the grounds that a juror during deliberations told other jurors he had been sexually abused as a child even though he had not revealed it in response to questions about prior sex abuse in a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors.