Ghislaine Maxwell — the jet-setting socialite who once consorted with royals, presidents and billionaires — was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison for facilitating the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors.
The 11 a.m. sentencing in New York was the culmination of a prosecution that began in Bradford, New Hampshire where Maxwell was arrested by FBI in July 2020.
Prosecutors, led by United States District Attorney Audrey Strauss, charged her with six federal crimes including enticement of minors, sex trafficking, and perjury. The indictment charged that between 1994 and 1997, she "assisted, facilitated, and contributed" to the abuse of minor girls despite knowing that one of three unnamed victims was 14 years old.
Prosecutors explained that Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial, sexually abused minors hundreds of times over more than a decade and couldn’t have done so without the assistance of Maxwell, his longtime friend. “Maxwell’s conduct was shockingly predatory. She was a calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
In December 2021, a jury convicted Maxwell on all counts; sex trafficking, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and two conspiracy charges. Maxwell, 60, has denied abusing anyone.
Acts of Complicity
As a matter of law, an accomplice is a person who actively participates in the commission of a crime, even if they take no part in the actual criminal offense. In a bank robbery, for example, the person who points the gun at the teller and demands the money is the principal. Anyone else directly involved in the commission of the crime, such as the lookout or the getaway car driver, is an accomplice.
An accessory is neither a principal nor accomplice to a crime. They’re simply aware of and/or suspect it. If the principal’s mother, for example, knew or even suspected the bank robbery she’d be complicit, an accessory to the crime.
In English Common law, both accomplice and accessory bear the same degree of guilt as the principal, and are subject to the same prosecution and penalties. As such, the three accomplices to our bank robbery could be criminally prosecuted for armed robbery, whilst mom, an accomplice, would be too.
Epstein and Maxwell’s associations with some of the world’s most famous people were not prosecuted in this particular trial (Prince Andrew settled with his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, for an undisclosed amount), but the prosecution’s constant references to encounters with Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Britain’s Prince Andrew demonstrate how the pair’s connections were implicit to the way in which Epstein and Maxwell would clientele, seduce and commission the criminal acts.
The Quixote Effect
Tell me your company and I will tell you what you are.
Miguel de Cervantes? Sancho Panza? Lord Chesterfield? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Joseph Hordern? Many have laid claim to this famous quote, but it first appeared in the influential Spanish novel “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.”
The plot explores the adventures of a member of the lowest nobility, Alonso Quijano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he either loses or pretends to have lost his mind in order to become a knight, revive chivalry, and serve the nation under the name Don Quixote.
He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote's rhetorical monologues on knighthood, already considered old-fashioned at the time, and representing the most vivid realism in contrast to his master's idealism.
In philosophy, realism is the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully. For idealists, that reality is indistinguishable from their perception and understanding. That very debate preceded this week’s verdict when Anne Holve and Philip Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell’s siblings, wrote to the court that her relationship with Epstein began soon after the 1991 death of their father, the British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell.
They described how Robert Maxwell’s “frequent rapid mood swings, huge rages and rejections led to his daughter becoming vulnerable to abusive and powerful men who would be able to take advantage of her innate good nature,” they wrote, pleading with the court for leniency.
The court deferred to reality. While Maxwell was immersed in a world she believed was real, the judge explained "she was an adult who made her own choices; to conspire with Epstein, partner in crime, cause devastating harm to vulnerable victims and sexually exploit numerous underage girls.”
Judge Alison J. Nathan noted as she imposed the prison term and a $750,000 fine that Maxwell never expressed remorse for her crimes. The judge said she wanted the sentence to send an “unmistakable message” that nobody was above the law.
Like Quixote, Epstein quietly disappeared when he came to reality. For Ghislaine Maxwell, who was placed on suicide watch over the weekend, there is no escape. She'll be fighting windmills into the twilight of her life.