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Maxwell was convicted of recruiting and grooming underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, even sometimes participating in the abuse herself.
In court Tuesday, Maxwell admitted she had been “guilty of helping Epstein,” who she called a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man,” The New York Post reports.
“To you, to you, all the victims who came in court and those outside I am sorry for the pain that you experienced,” she said in court. “I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you closure.”
But Maxwell stopped short of taking any direct responsibility for the abuse, placing the blame instead on Epstein, her former love interest, according to The New York Times.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell said Tuesday while shackled and wearing blue prison scrubs. “Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you.”
Epstein took his own life in a federal jail cell in August of 2019 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial.
For Epstein accuser Sarah Ramsome, Maxwell's apology “doesn’t cut it.”
“I wish she was sorry when she was busy forcing me into a room to be raped. She should have been sorry then,” Ramsome said outside the courthouse.
“To force someone into a room to be raped — there’s not enough sorrys in the world. ‘I am sorry’ doesn’t cut it,” Ransome later told the media. “And as far as I’m concerned actions speak louder than words.”
Ramsome was one of several women who delivered victim impact statements in court about the long-term damage the abuse had caused in her life. She told the court she had tried to take her own life twice.
Ransome was 22 years-old when she said Epstein and Maxwell subjected her to sexual abuse “for the entertainment” of others during multiple visits to Epstein’s mansion and his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“On one of the visits to his island, the sexual demands, degradation and humiliation became so horrific that I attempted to escape by jumping off a cliff into shark-infested waters,” she said during her victim impact statement, according to The Guardian.
Another victim, who testified during her trial under the name Kate, said after the court proceeding that Maxwell had “ruined the lives of countless women and children” for years, but has never previously voiced any remorse for her actions.
“She doesn’t think what she did was wrong,” Kate said, according to the news outlet. “She is not sorry. She would do it again.”
Elizabeth Stein, who has said she was sexually abused as a college student after coming to New York to study fashion, also spoke out after the sentence was handed down Tuesday, describing how unnerving it had been to hear Maxwell’s voice.
“I kept reminding myself [Maxwell] was in front of me in shackles being sentenced and Sarah and I were there sitting together free,” she told the media.
One of Epstein’s most vocal accusers, Virginia Giuffre, was not in court but her attorney read a statement from her outside the courthouse.
Giuffre said that, the first time she met Maxwell while working at Mar-a-Lago hotel in Florida in the summer of 2000, the socialite had made a “choice” to follow her and target her.
“As a woman, I think you understood the damage you were causing — you could have put an end to the rapes, the molestation, the sickening manipulation that you witnessed and even took part in,” the statement said.
Giuffre has said that, while in the company of Epstein and Maxwell, she was sex trafficked to Great Britain's Prince Andrew at the age of 17. She sued the him last year and settled the civil case for an undisclosed figure in February.
“May this sentence demonstrate that it is never too late for the truth to come out, and never too late for there to be accountability,” victim Annie Farmer said outside the courthouse in footage captured by The New York Times. “If you’re someone who has experienced sexual abuse or exploitation and did not feel safe to report those crimes, or were not believed when you did, or were told that the perpetrators would not be held accountable, this is for you.”
Farmer was one of four women who testified against Maxwell in her federal trial late last year, describing how she had been lured to Jeffrey Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in the spring of 1996 under the pretense of attending a program for high school students. There, she said, she was sexually abused by both Maxwell and Epstein.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done on this issue, but in this fight, we need to celebrate the victories. And today, this is a big victory,” she said.
Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim said her client planned to file an appeal.
“Our client Ghislaine Maxwell, has been vilified, pilloried and it left little room for her to be treated fairly, because even before she stepped forward into this courthouse, she was being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion,” she said.
However, others, like attorney Sigrid McCawley, who represents Farmer, saw Tuesday as “a towering day for justice.”
“As we saw, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crimes she committed against these survivors and so many others,” McCawley said in a statement captured by The Times. “Today showed us that individuals can be held accountable irrespective of power and privilege. And today showed us that the chorus of voices of these survivors prevailed and showed accountability.”
For more on the Ghislaine Maxwell case, watch the three-part docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell,” available now on Peacock.
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