It’s an open question whether Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentence of 20 years and her fine of $750,000 handed down by Judge Alison Nathan on June 28 will bring the longed-for end of the decades-long nightmare to Jeffrey Epstein’s and Ghislaine Maxwell’s many victims, both those who figured in Ms. Maxwell’s indictment and trial and the many dozens who did not. On the positive side for those victims, Maxwell’s sentencing does at least signal a resolution of this set of proceedings and provides an interregnum for assessing events thus far, as the convicted felon now begins the formalities of serving what remains of her sentence in her assigned federal facility in Danbury, Connecticut.
But with Ms. Maxwell’s and her attorneys’ stated intent to appeal, it seems likely that, in a larger way, Ghislaine Maxwell’s own narrative of her years with Epstein and her quotient of guilt in the many civil and criminal matters that enveloped her will be heartily re-opened and debated. Certainly, for her next little time in prison, she will be most immediately occupied with constructing her defense in her upcoming perjury trial, which two charges are the result of some contested utterances of Maxwell’s while under oath as she was being deposed by Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s formidable attorneys from Boies, Schiller and Flexner in Giuffre’s 2016 (civil) defamation suit. Ms. Maxwell was moved to settle that suit in 2017.
It’s not yet known when Maxwell’s appeal of her current, larger felony convictions will be brought. But the looming fact of it and its eventual filing will attenuate what’s being described as the “closure” that Judge’s Nathan’s rather eloquently stiff sentence was intended to provide. The victims’ testimony during the 2021 trial and their statements at the June 28 sentencing hearing were stark and searing.
The many deep scars of Epstein’s and Maxwell’s years of habitual abuse of these young women and girls were well and bravely displayed by their victims. Bottom line, the victims’ forthrightness in laying out the narrative of Epstein’s and Maxwell’s abuse were why Maxwell’s multiple convictions for trafficking and conspiracy, and her sentencing, were so resolute. It was an elegantly narrow case, that of the prosecution, resting on just four Epstein/Maxwell victims and a few other people.
Tactically speaking, it’s worth recalling that during her trial Ghislaine Maxwell did not take the stand or offer the court or the jury any but the most minimal, procedural forms of communication, despite the fact that she faced charges of heinous forms of conspiracy, grooming and sexual abuse that fairly begged for a measured counter-narrative in her defense. Maxwell’s attorneys were not able to offer that. Instead, they resorted to the tried-and-true tactic of impugning the witnesses.
During her weeks in court last December, Maxwell hewed to form as a socialite and very agile mover on the diplomatic and philanthropic stages by attempting to stay above the fray, passing tactical notes to her lawyers. Maxwell’s cool courtroom demeanor did not help sway the jury in her favor.
Maxwell’s June 28 sentencing hearing marked a radical departure from that overarching, chilly, aloof posture. Maxwell submitted to the court a — for her — enormously revealing 389-word personal statement immediately prior to sentencing by Judge Nathan. Before diving into its detail, it’s important to note that the Maxwell document bears a honed literary — and by definition legal — polish.
This was to be expected for two good reasons: First, Ghislaine Maxwell is the product of a superior Oxford education, of which the practice of rhetoric is a core part. Second, if anybody on the planet has realized the legal liabilities that Maxwell arguably can face, which includes but is not limited to her upcoming perjury trial in New York, Ms. Maxwell is that person. As the author of this extraordinary statement to the court in her criminal proceeding, then, she will have taken extreme care in every bit of its composition.
In rough Shakespearean dramatic terms, we can divide the Maxwell statement into three acts: A statement of the current circumstance; a turn inward to describe her own role in the tragedy; and an attenuated attempt at a kind of resolution. Again, in the two years since her arrest at the hands of the FBI from her then-newly-purchased and aptly-named New Hampshire estate “Tucked Away,” she’s never gone public with any sort of public statement as to her role in the Epstein saga. She has now.
We do not know what Ghislaine Maxwell can or will produce in her upcoming years in Danbury, but this statement addressed directly to Judge Nathan, and to the Epstein victims and witnesses arrayed against her, is a first joust at a public utterance by the notorious Ghislaine Maxwell herself on some of the effects her actions have had. In the largest rhetorical sense, it’s a political document — she’s using her literary gifts to fashion an impression, first possibly to gain leniency from Judge Nathan, and second, but no less important, to deliver a bit of a valediction by way of revealing a bit of herself to the court of public opinion. Above all else, her statement is a fine chance for us to watch her try, mightily, to humanize herself by presenting her “reactions” to the web of circumstances she has woven.
The full June 28 text, as reported in the British press, is below. The statement is original as published in London; no text has been edited — all apparent elisions and grammatical peculiarities are rendered as published in London. The statement reads:
Your honor, it is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain and anguish expressed today. The terrible impact on the lives of so many women is difficult to hear and even more difficult to absorb, both in its scale and extent. I acknowledge their suffering and empathize deeply with all of the victims in this case. I also acknowledge with that I have been a victim of helping Jeffrey Epstein commit these crimes. I realize I have been convicted of assisting Jeffrey Epstein to commit these crimes. My association with Epstein will permanently stain me. It is the biggest regret of my life that I ever met him.
I believe Jeffrey Epstein fooled all of those in his orbit. His victims considered him a mentor, friend, lover. It is absolutely unfathomable today to think that was how he was viewed contemporaneously. His impact on all those close to him has been devastating. And today, those who even knew him briefly or never met him but were associated with someone who did, have lost relationships, jobs, and had their lives derailed.
Jeffrey Epstein should have stood before you. In 2005. In 2009. And again in 2019. All the many times he was accused, charged, prosecuted. He should have spared victims the years of chasing justice.
But today is ultimately not about Epstein. It is for me to be sentenced and for the victims to address me alone in court. To you I say: I am sorry for the pain you experienced. I hope my conviction along with my harsh incarceration brings you closure. I hope this brings the women who have suffered some measure of peace and faintly to help you put those experiences of so many years ago in a place that allows you to look forward and not back.
I also acknowledge the pain this case has wrought to those I love, the many I held and still hold close, the relationships I have lost and will never be able to regain. It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom and all those outside this courtroom that today brings a terrible chapter to an end. And to those of you who spoke here today and those who did not, may this day help you travel through darkness into the light.
Maxwell begins notably in the present, on June 28, describing her own difficulties in addressing the court, as if her statement were composed only after hearing from the victims invited to speak and/or submit statements meant to be taken into account at sentencing. The extreme care taken in the statement’s exacting formulation belies that.
This rhetorical device of eliding the decades of action that led to her multiple felony convictions artfully allows her to skip any reference to the weeks of her 2021 trial, during which she heard in even more excruciating detail than she did yesterday the evidence buttressed against her. Crucially, it also allows her to make the move to, in her wordage, “empathize deeply with all of the victims in this case.”
But immediately following in the fourth sentence of her statement Maxwell makes a complex literary and philosophical turn: “I also acknowledge with that (Note: meaning, with the preceding empathy) I have been a victim of helping Jeffrey Epstein commit these crimes.”
The syntax is somewhat off because Maxwell is trying two rhetorical moves at once. Can one “have been” a “victim” of the act of “helping Jeffrey Epstein?” It’s a difficult sort of victimization to posit. She’s clearly trying to reduce her own well-documented agency in setting up the architecture of Jeffrey Epstein’s system of abuse of young women. But at the same time she’s also trying to elide and recast her deeper connection to Epstein. Unfortunately, Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein were lovers and friends for decades. He employed her, richly rewarding her with real estate and millions in cash for doing what she did. Her prosecutors’ point, and one that won the day in court, was that she had agency as she did what she did.
Despite that bobble, Maxwell’s intent with this delicate phraseology is clear: Post-conviction, Ghislaine Maxwell is now in the process of presenting herself as yet another victim of Jeffrey Epstein. Prima facie, given this statement’s source and the decades of Maxwell’s documented acts related in sworn testimony that led to her conviction for her crimes, that is a breathtaking claim.
Ms. Maxwell will build on her status as a victim later in this presentation, but at this point in the document she seems to have sensed that she needed a qualifying thought to modify this most bold equation of herself as another Epstein victim. So, she makes an attempt to present herself as aware of her legal situation, writing thusly: “I also realize I have been convicted of assisting Jeffrey Epstein to commit these crimes.”
There’s no legal downside for her in admitting the obvious, but the obvious, in this case, does serve Ghislaine Maxwell in that it shows the world, and Judge Nathan, that she can fix herself realistically in the legal cosmos. As a setup, it’s also rhetorically useful at this point to further her argument that Epstein was really the culprit, which is her very next point.
Epstein “fooled everybody in his orbit,” she begins, and his “impact on those closest to him was devastating,” and so forth. She’s laying out her current perspective on her former life partner, or, seen another way, she’s at least paying lip service to the many horrors of her partner’s actions. With understated tones of seriousness, Ms. Maxwell attempts to present herself as being horrified at what was done to these many dozens of girls and young women while being a key architect of that system. Bluntly put — and Maxwell may have known this going in — in Judge Nathan’s courtroom the empathy for Ms. Maxwell in her new “enlightened” guise of an Epstein victim would be thin on the ground. But that doesn’t stop her for reaching for victim status.
It’s been unclear for years how Ghislaine Maxwell compartmentalized and reconciled, or didn’t, her years of immense brutality toward girls and young women. We do know that she manufactured and inhabited two different worlds. The first, aboveground world — the facade if you will — was a bright, cushy construct of social and philanthropic events arrranged from her London townhouse and from the Epstein double-mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The second, far darker Maxwellian world one was the world of procurement, at which she was apparently very good, or at least good enough to have been kept around by Epstein at vast expense in order to keep doing it.
Mechanically speaking, it took a good spy’s talent for duplicity combined with, in Maxwell’s specific case, a very British, bred-in-the-bone class driven hauteur. The girls and young women whom she groomed and queued up for abuse by Epstein were given manuals of behavior, as at an Edwardian girls’ school. Put differently, they weren’t just there to be serially abused. They had to be taught manners for the privilege of being abused.
Still, the ability to compartmentalize is monumental: Ghislaine Maxwell could sit at a charity benefit for children in New York, as pictured above in Little Italy, and also dip down into working-class West Palm Beach to hook an already-abused 17-year-old Virginia Roberts into a sex slave relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. What kind of self-administered resection did that require?
Bluntly put, the mind that bridged that huge chasm for decades is the mind that, in the last two paragraphs of the current June 28 courtroom missive, attempts to sell the notion of redemption via “closure” for Epstein’s victims. In the bottom of her valediction, Maxwell assumes a formal declarative tone, one that’s almost Greek, as in, from a Euripidean tragedy. She wrote: “It is for me to be sentenced and for the victims to address me alone in court. To you I say: I am sorry for the pain you experienced. I hope my conviction along with my harsh incarceration brings you closure.”
It’s entirely up for grabs how sincere that is or could be, but there we have it, Ghislaine Maxwell at last expressing a modicum of sorrow at the state of affairs, while attempting to reduce her agency in the matter even as she is, literally, led off to prison shackled at the ankles for exercising that agency relentlessly over many years.
Judge Nathan wasn’t having any of that theater as she handed down the twenty-year sentence, noting Maxwell’s lack of remorse and her attempts to shun responsibility. Nathan said, “”Maxwell directly and repeatedly and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme to entice, transport and traffic underage girls, some as young as 14, for sexual abuse by and with Jeffrey Epstein,” adding that the damage was “incalculable.”
For now, whether Ghislaine Maxwell’s sudden, enlightened recasting herself as an Epstein victim is successful or not, the one sure thing in her future is that her trial on perjury awaits her.