The New York socialite has today been put behind bars after being convicted in December by a federal jury on five charges, including sex trafficking, for recruiting and grooming four girls between 1994 and 2004 for sexual encounters with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein had been her boyfriend at the time, and died in 2019 in prison while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial.
The case against her has been one of the most followed stories since the emergence of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse.
Maxwell was also sentenced to five years of supervised release after she leaves prison, as well as a $750,000 (£615,000) fine. US federal prison has no parole system, meaning the sex trafficker will be serving the full sentence.
Sentencing, Judge Alison Nathan clarified that Maxwell was being punished “not as a proxy for Epstein, but rather for her role in the criminal conduct. She participated in some of the abuse. Her conduct was heinous and predatory.”
The sentencing guideline was 188 to 235 months – but Judge Nathan said that was “only one factor” to be considered.
Arguing the case for why Maxwell should receive a harsher sentence, Assistant US Attorney Alison Moe called what the socialite did to her victims “unspeakable”, adding: “Their pain is real and it matters.
“These girls were just kids. Maxwell used their dreams as a tool to abuse them.”
In mitigation, Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Steinham made the case that the sex offender had suffered a difficult childhood, and no longer posed a threat to society.
Maxwell herself, prior to the sentencing, said her association with Epstein is the “biggest regret of my life”.
She added: “I hope my conviction and harsh incarceration brings you peace and finality. I hope this date brings a terrible chapter to the end.”
One of Maxwell’s accusers was Virginia Giuffre, who earlier this year accused Prince Andrew of sexual abuse in connection with Jeffrey Epstein, but both parties agreed on an out-of-court settlement, which does not amount to an admission of guilt by the Prince. Prince Andrew has strenuously denied all of Ms Giuffre’s allegations.
Ahead of today’s sentencing Ms Giuffre described how Maxwell, 60, took advantage of her and detailed the lasting impact the horrific abuse had on her in a statement.
Ms Giuffre directed her statement at Maxwell, as she said: “I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible paedophile.
“But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you.
“For me, and for so many others, you opened the door to hell.”
Accusing Maxwell of failing to step in and prevent the horrific acts of abuse, which Ms Giuffre says the socialite also “took part in”, the victim then detailed how much the crimes continue to affect her to this day.
She said: “I have trouble meeting new people without questioning if somehow they are going to hurt me, too.
“I don’t allow my children to stay over at friends’ houses, or to walk down the street alone.
“I am hyper-vigilant, because I know that evil exists. You taught me that.”
She closed her statement with a warning: “If you ever get out of prison, I will be here, watching you, making sure you never hurt anyone else again.”
Another accuser, Sarah Ransome, who did not testify at the trial but was due to give an impact statement spoke outside court alongside fellow accuser Elizabeth Stein.
Ms Ransome said Maxwell should remain in prison for the rest of her life.
She said: “Ghislaine must die in prison because I’ve been in Hell and back for the last seventeen years.
“I was 10 years old when Liz Stein was being trafficked. I was ten. That is how long this sex trafficking ring has been going on for. And it should have just taken one survivor to come forward for us to be taken seriously. It should not have been this hard.”
Four women testified at the trial that they had been abused as minors at Epstein’s homes in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the Virgin Islands.
They were identified in court only by their first names or pseudonyms to protect their privacy.
They recounted how Maxwell had talked them into giving Epstein massages which turned sexual, and lead to him luring them with gifts and promises about how he could use his money and connections to help them.
Maxwell has been in custody since her arrest in July 2020, held mostly at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. The convicted sex offender there complained of the stink of raw sewage in her cell.