On July 7th, Ghislaine Maxwell appealed her conviction and 20-year prison sentence for her role in a years-long scheme to facilitate the sexual abuse of young women and underage girls. The British socialite and former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein—who evaded his own trial for sexual abuse of minors by committing suicide in his cell—was found guilty in December of a variety of charges, including sex trafficking and various instances of conspiracy to entice and transport individuals with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity. On June 28th, Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Manhattan federal court.
After Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, which some claim to this day to be a cover-up to protect the names of high-ranking associates who may also have been involved in the abuse of underaged girls between 1994 and 2004, Ghislaine Maxwell became the main target of the prosecution. The four victims of Epstein who testified at Maxwell’s trial described Maxwell’s role as one of a facilitator of abuse, enticing and grooming young girls in the process.
In a statement released by the Department of Justice, attorney Damian Williams said:
Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children. This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice. We again express our gratitude to Epstein and Maxwell’s victims for their courage in coming forward, in testifying at trial, and in sharing their stories as part of today’s sentencing.
Maxwell said at the announcement of the verdict, that she “empathizes deeply with all of the victims in this case.” However, while she acknowledged being convicted of helping Epstein commit these crimes, she did not take any personal responsibility for her role. Instead, she pinned the blame on Epstein himself:
Despite the many helpful and positive things I have done in my life and will continue to do, I know that my association with Epstein and this case will forever and permanently stain me. Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you, he should have stood before you all those years ago, he should have stood before you in 2005, again in 2009, and again in 2019. I am sorry for the pain that you experienced.
Dorothy Byrne, producer of a documentary on Maxwell, said it was “offensive” for Maxwell to play the victim in this instance. “There are hundreds of victims, but none of them is called Ghislaine Maxwell. She victimized other women. She is not a victim.”
Meanwhile, many voices have been raised stressing that justice has not been fully served yet. “Now do the men,” tweeted Monica Lewinsky, calling for prosecution of the high-ranking clients of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Back in January, it was announced that Maxwell would no longer fight to protect the identities of several people whose redacted names had previously leaked to the public. In a ruling last September, a judge revealed there were 16 non-party objectors in the case, meaning people who were not party to the lawsuit, but who objected to their identities being released. One of the victims, Virgina Guiffre, and her team of lawyers demand the identities of these clients unsealed.
“Aversion to embarrassment and negativity that may come from being associated with Epstein and Maxwell is not enough to warrant continued sealing of information,” Guiffre’s lawyers wrote in a statement:
This is especially true with respect to this case of great public interest, involving serious allegations of the sex trafficking of minors. … Now that Maxwell’s criminal trial has come and gone, there is little reason to retain protection over the vast swathes of information about Epstein and Maxwell’s sex trafficking operation that were originally filed under seal in this case.
Whether the names will be released or not is up to Judge Preska, who will determine whether the right to privacy outweighs the public’s right to know. Many victims, and with them the general public, hope that the final verdict on the sexual abuse network of Jeffrey Epstein hasn’t been spoken yet.