In a two-pronged attack, attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday asked a federal judge in Manhattan for a “significant variance below” a suggested prison sentence for the socialite-turned-defendant who was convicted last December of sex trafficking and conspiring to entice minors.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, Maxwell’s attorneys also asked for a sentence “below” a 240-month (20 year) sentence recommended by probation authorities. They also asked U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to order a prison term that was well below the 292 to 365 months (24.3 to 30.4 years) in prison recommended under one set of federal sentencing guidelines.
While the memo generally sought a downward push on the usual sentencing recommendations and suggestions, it did not contain a strong numerical articulation of the defense’s requested sentence; rather, the asks were couched in vagueries and generalized proposals.
Another document did contain concrete guardrails in conjunction with the overarching requests for judicial leniency.
Maxwell’s attorneys, via that separate document, asserted that their client’s “properly calculated sentencing range” was actually somewhere between 51 and 63 months (or only about four and a half to five and a quarter years). That significantly reduced calculation, the defense wrote, was based on 2003 federal sentencing guidelines and not on later versions. The 2003 guidelines applied because much of the conduct occurred before the 2004 guidelines were promulgated, the defense reasoned — all while citing an ex post facto argument under the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law in support of their claims.
Maxwell, who is now 60, would face a sentence “tantamount to a lifetime term of imprisonment” if she is incarcerated for the next 20 years, the memorandum states while quoting a pre-sentence investigation report.
The opening salvo of the 77-page sentencing memo, which included copious attestations as to Maxwell’s character by her friends and relatives, sought to distance Maxwell from the Jeffrey Epstein, whose abuse the jury agreed Maxwell helped facilitate while he was alive:
Ghislaine Maxwell stands before the Court because of her association with Jeffrey Epstein decades ago in the 1990s and early 2000s. Never before that time and never again in the roughly 20-year period since the conduct underlying this case occurred has Ms. Maxwell ever been accused of a crime, much less a scheme to sexually abuse minors. The witnesses at trial testified about Ms. Maxwell’s facilitation of Epstein’s abuse, but Epstein was always the central figure: Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser, and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification. Indeed, had Ghislaine Maxwell never had the profound misfortune of meeting Jeffrey Epstein over 30 years ago, she would not be here.
The memo continued by claiming Maxwell’s “life had been ruined” and that her “life has been threatened” while she has been behind bars:
Epstein avoided a significant sentence when he was first prosecuted in Florida for these offenses and then evaded any further punishment by dying a month after his arrest and detention in New York. But this Court cannot sentence Ms. Maxwell as if she were a proxy for Epstein simply because Epstein is no longer here. Ms. Maxwell cannot and should not bear all the punishment for which Epstein should have been held responsible. Ms. Maxwell has already experienced hard time during detention under conditions far more onerous and punitive than any experienced by a typical pretrial detainee, and she is preparing to spend significantly more time behind bars. Her life has been ruined. Since Epstein’s death, her life has been threatened and death threats continue while she is incarcerated. It would be a travesty of justice for her to face a sentence that would have been appropriate for Epstein.
A concomitant footnote reads explains the alleged threats, in brief:
Most recently, an inmate in Ms. Maxwell’s unit threatened to kill her, claiming that an additional 20 years’ incarceration would be worth the money she’d receive for murdering Ms. Maxwell.
Later on in the memo, the attorneys revisited the same claims of an inmate bragging about being offered money to kill Maxwell:
Just recently, Ms. Maxwell was the target of a credible death threat from a fellow inmate. On information and belief, one of the female inmates in Ms. Maxwell’s housing unit told at least three other inmates that she had been offered money to murder Ms. Maxwell and that she planned to strangle her in her sleep. The inmate who made the threat has been moved to the SHU, presumably to protect Ms. Maxwell. This incident reflects the brutal reality that there are numerous prison inmates who would not hesitate to kill Ms. Maxwell – whether for money, fame, or simple “street cred.” Ms. Maxwell has effectively traded the stress of flashlight checks every 15 minutes in the middle of the night while in isolation for the equivalent stress of having to sleep with one eye open – for as long as she is housed with other inmates. Ms. Maxwell will have live with this threat every day that she is housed in the MDC and every day that she is incarcerated in the prison where she is designated.
Maxwell’s attorneys balked that federal prosecutors in New York took the “extraordinary step of resurrecting the decade-old case against Epstein” after Epstein’s so-called “sweetheart” deal in Florida ended with what by most accounts was a lax punishment in the Sunshine State in 2007. Under the leadership of then-U.S. Attorney (and eventual Secretary of Labor) Alexander Acosta, federal prosecutors quietly agreed to a secretive non-prosecution agreement that protected both Epstein and his associates. In exchange for the favorable treatment by feds, Epstein pleaded guilty to less serious state-level prostitution charges, served only 13 months in a county jail, and received significant work release privileges.
Prosecutors in New York subsequently looked into the matter and charged Epstein in 2019.
“SDNY’s focus was always on righting the wrongs resulting from the Florida prosecution: Epstein was undercharged and under punished, Epstein never faced his accusers, and his accusers were denied justice,” Maxwell’s attorneys wrote — again in an attempt to refocus the court’s ire elsewhere. “The entire focus of the accusations initially aimed at Epstein were now centered on one defendant alone – Ghislaine Maxwell – at a time when she was already being vilified in the press and the public domain.”
A few lines of blame hoisted toward the media ensued before Maxwell’s attorneys reminded the court that Maxwell was not a stand-in for Epstein:
[I]n sentencing Ms. Maxwell, the Court cannot be influenced by this inexorable drumbeat of public condemnation calling for her to be locked away for good. The Court cannot heal the wounds caused by Epstein by heaping on Ms. Maxwell’s shoulders the pain of every one of his victims, the outrage of society, the public scorn of the community, and then driving her out of the community forever. While that may assuage the public and give the perception that “justice was done,” that is not justice. That is scapegoating. Ms. Maxwell must be sentenced on the record before the Court and not these external pressures.
Maxwell’s lawyers also briefly addressed her highly publicized arrest in the mountains of New Hampshire after her whereabouts were for months unknown:
Law enforcement had been discreetly keeping tabs on her throughout the course of its investigation. Her lawyers had been in contact with prosecutors in the months preceding her arrest and would have arranged for her self-surrender. Ms. Maxwell’s presence in New Hampshire was driven solely by the need to protect herself and her family from threats of physical harm and from the unprecedented and escalating press and public vilification she had to endure since Epstein’s death.
The memo concludes, in part, by saying that Maxwell “is not an heiress, villain, or vapid socialite,” but someone who “has worked hard her entire life.”
She has energy, drive, commitment, a strong work ethic, and desire to do good in the world. She has supported friends and family through tough times and personal crisis and currently is assisting women in her unit at the MDC. She has endeavored to contribute to society (e.g., by becoming an EMT, developing a platform so that people in remote areas could receive quality medical assistance, helping launch the Clinton Global Initiative, creating TerraMar, providing GED tutoring for inmates in her unit) and will continue to do so throughout her sentence and when she rejoins the community beyond prison walls. She has also tried to protect the people around her (Ted Waitt’s children, her stepchildren, the people at TerraMar) from the onslaught of press and public vilification that come with having been associated with her.
She had a difficult, traumatic childhood with an overbearing, narcissistic, and demanding father. It made her vulnerable to Epstein, whom she met right after her father’s death. It is the biggest mistake she made in her life and one that she has not and never will repeat. She has never been accused of anything untoward in the over-15-year period since her relationship with Epstein ended. In fact, she has been involved in two committed, long-term, loving relationships with men who had young children. She is not a danger to the community and there is no concern about recidivism.
Maxwell’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 28.
The full sentencing memo is below:
The second document — an objection to Maxwell’s presentence report — is also here:
[Featured photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images.]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]