Attorneys Spar in Court as Ghislaine Maxwell Sentencing Date Nears

Defense calls for leniency amid death threats, says she should not bear all the punishment for Epstein as well

Attorneys Spar in Court as Ghislaine Maxwell Sentencing Date Nears
Ghislaine Maxwell, the Jeffrey Epstein associate accused of sex trafficking, stands before U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan with her defense team of Bobbi Sternheim, Christian Everdell, Laura Menninger, Jeffrey Pagliuca during a pre-trial hearing ahead of jury selection, in a courtroom sketch in New York City, on Nov. 15, 2021. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
Dave Paone

NEW YORK—For the past week-and-a-half, attorneys for both sides in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial have been giving their final legal efforts via court documents, each hoping for a victory of sorts when she’s sentenced on June 28.

Maxwell was found guilty of five of six counts of sex trafficking on Dec. 29, after a month-long trial in federal court in New York.

On June 15, the defense filed a 36-page memorandum that essentially asks Judge Alison Nathan to go easy on their client.

For much of the 36 pages, the defense puts the blame on the now-deceased Jeffery Epstein, who was Maxwell’s employer and romantic partner, referring to him as the "central figure," "mastermind," and "principal abuser."

 Sarah Ransome, a victim of Jeffery Epstein arrives for the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell at the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City on Nov. 29, 2021. (Ryan Smith/AFP)
Sarah Ransome, a victim of Jeffery Epstein arrives for the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell at the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City on Nov. 29, 2021. (Ryan Smith/AFP)

The defense attorneys go on to say, "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."

They cite death threats against Maxwell, who’s been incarcerated since July 2020.

"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."

They also claim, "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."

Maxwell had been in solitary confinement but was moved to the general population.

The defense also lays the blame on the media, claiming Maxwell was "vilified in the press and the public domain."

The document covers Maxwell’s childhood, living with an abusive father.

The defense laid out several reasons for a short sentence, including, "unusually harsh pre-sentence confinement warrants a downward variance," "incarceration during the pandemic supports a well-recognized sentence reduction," and "extraordinary conditions of solitary confinement justifies a hard-time credit."

In addition to the 36-page memo, there were over 30 pages of character references from Maxwell’s friends and family attached, each supporting the defense’s argument.

Sentencing Guidelines 

Also on June 15, the defense submitted a memo on sentencing guidelines. There are two sets of guidelines in play: one from 2003 and one from 2004.

The 2003 guidelines have a range of 168 to 210 months for Maxwell’s crimes, while the 2004 guidelines have a range of 292 to 365 months.

Maxwell’s lawyers state the earlier guidelines have a roughly 75 percent shorter sentence and that they apply in this case because the offenses she’s been found guilty of did not occur past the Nov. 1, 2004, cut-off date.

They claim the poor memory of Carolyn, a witness for the prosecution, doesn’t unequivocally place events after that date.

The defense makes a few other arguments regarding enhancements in the memo and concludes "the correct sentencing range is 51-63 months under the 2003 guidelines."

On June 14, attorney Robert Lewis of Marsh Law Firm, sent a letter to Nathan requesting his clients, Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein, who are alleged victims of Maxwell and Epstein, speak at the sentencing.

Prosecution Responds

The prosecution filed paperwork with the court stating it has notified six other alleged victims, all of whom testified at the trial, of their right to be heard at the sentencing.

On June 22, the prosecution responded to the defense memos with a 50-page one of its own, essentially stating why the 2004 guidelines should be implemented.

The prosecution claims that Carolyn’s testimony proves the conspiracy continued into 2005, past the Nov.1, 2004 deadline for the 2003 guidelines. To make this claim they cited her testimony as well as the date on her birth certificate and then deduced the 2005 date.

The memo ends with, "Ghislaine Maxwell sexually exploited young girls for years. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of her crimes and the harm she caused.

"Her crimes demand justice. The government urges the court to impose a sentence within the applicable guidelines range of 360 to 660 months’ imprisonment."

Maxwell’s sentencing will be at 11 a.m. (EDT) on June 28, in the Thurgood Marshall Building at 50 Center Street in Manhattan.