Almost exactly two years after Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire and brought to New York to face charges that she conspired with Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, groom and abuse underage girls, she is to be sentenced on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
If Judge Alison J. Nathan agrees with the government’s request for a sentence of at least 30 years, Ms. Maxwell could spend much of the rest of her life in prison.
Ms. Maxwell, 60, the daughter of the British media magnate Robert Maxwell, was convicted on Dec. 29 and will face sentencing on three counts: sex trafficking, conspiracy and transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity.
The defense has asked the judge to impose a sentence less than the 20 years recommended by the court’s probation office. There is no minimum sentence for Ms. Maxwell, who has been jailed ever since she was denied bail after her arrest on July 2, 2020.
Ms. Maxwell’s sentencing hearing could last more than an hour. Several of her accusers, including some who testified at her trial, have asked to address the judge, and Ms. Maxwell also will be given the opportunity to speak. Her lawyers have said she is planning to appeal, and it is possible that Ms. Maxwell, who did not testify at her trial, will choose to remain silent in court on Tuesday as well.
Her trial was widely seen as the reckoning that Mr. Epstein, 66, her longtime companion, never had. The disgraced financier hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell one month after his July 2019 arrest as he awaited his own trial on sex trafficking charges.
Still, Mr. Epstein loomed over the trial — his name surfaced repeatedly, and Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers took every opportunity to separate their client from him.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers, in a sentencing letter to the judge, cited trial testimony about Ms. Maxwell’s “facilitation of Epstein’s abuse,” but argued that “Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification.”
The lawyers claimed the government turned its attention to Ms. Maxwell only after the public uproar following Mr. Epstein’s death while in the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons’ custody. They said the authorities urgently wanted to “appease the renewed distress of Epstein’s accusers and to repair the tarnished reputations of the D.O.J. and B.O.P.”
“There would be no trial for Epstein and no public vindication and justice for his accusers,” the lawyers wrote. “The government now had a huge hole to fill: Epstein’s empty chair.”
The office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in its submission to the judge that Ms. Maxwell had both failed to address her criminal conduct and showed an “utter lack of remorse.”
Ms. Maxwell’s attempt “to cast aspersions on the government for prosecuting her, and her claim that she is being held responsible for Epstein’s crimes, are both absurd and offensive,” prosecutors wrote.
“Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can,” they said.
The prosecution offered its evidence through 24 witnesses over 10 days in a case that centered on four accusers, now adults. Two of the women said Mr. Epstein engaged in sex acts with them starting when they were 14 years old. One said Ms. Maxwell was sometimes present in the encounters, and the other said Ms. Maxwell directly molested her by touching her breasts.
“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, told the jury in her summation. “She manipulated her victims, and she groomed them for sexual abuse.”