Former British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for her part in a sex trafficking scheme with her late boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his prison cell a month after being indicted on similar charges in 2019.
Maxwell, 60, could have been sentenced to fewer years in prison—but also many more years. In fact, her maximum sentence for sex trafficking and other crimes cited between 1994 and 2004 could have been 80 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors asked the judge in the case to sentence her to 30 to 55 years, and Maxwell’s defense attorneys asked for a sentence of 4 and a quarter to 5 and a quarter years in prison.
The probation department recommended a 20-year sentence. Sentencing guidelines for the crimes called for around 15 and a half to 19 and a half years in prison.
According to a CNN report, Judge Alison Nathan delivered the sentence slightly above that range while noting the disturbing testimony of the victims and Maxwell’s “direct and repeated participation in a horrific scheme.”
Maxwell has already spent almost 2 years in jail in New York City, where she was taken after her arrest at her home in New Hampshire on July 2, 2020. She will receive credit for those 2 years in confinement already served while awaiting trial and sentencing.
As for her trial, last December, a jury in New York convicted her of 5 counts, including sex trafficking, transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and 2 conspiracy charges.
Maxwell did not testify at her trial, but several of the alleged victims did. All were minors at the time of the crimes.
As part of her punishment, Maxwell was also sentenced to 5 years of supervised release and will face a $750,000 fine. To serve the remainder of her sentence, Maxwell is being sent to a federal prison in Danbury, CN.
One of Maxwell’s defense attorneys said she will appeal her conviction. She has repeatedly shifted the blame for the crimes to Epstein and is expected to do so again.
Notorious sex trafficking case involved underage girls
She and wealthy financier Epstein allegedly groomed underage girls for sexual abuse by him or in the service of rich and powerful friends and clients. Some of the girls reportedly were as young as 14.
The crimes allegedly occurred at Epstein’s residences in New York, Palm Beach and New Mexico, as well as at a London residence of Maxwell’s.
So far, none of the participants who received such services have been named, but they, too, would face legal liability.
Sex trafficking crimes are numerous
Many sex trafficking crimes have occurred throughout the country, but Houston is an especially prominent site. In fact, Houston is a hub for human trafficking.
Not only has Houston been the number 1 city statistically for human trafficking, but Texas ranks 2nd for human trafficking, just behind California.
What is human trafficking?
As for what constitutes human trafficking, it is the exploitation or illegal trade of humans, mostly for sexual exploitation but also for forced labor that’s akin to slavery.
Both federal and state laws can apply to human trafficking crimes, and such laws can bring especially harsh punishments when the victims of sex crimes are minors or children.
A comprehensive report examining hard facts and data surrounding human trafficking and exploitation.
How serious are sex trafficking charges?
You already know the lengthy prison sentence that Maxwell received in her federal case. As for state laws, under Texas law, human trafficking is largely a 2nd-degree felony, with punishments including a fine of up to $10,000 and a state prison sentence of 2 to 20 years.
However, the crime can rise to a 1st-degree felony if the victim was a minor less than 18 years old at the time of the offense.
Punishments for a 1st-degree felony in Texas can include a fine of up to $10,000 and a state prison sentence of 5 years to 99 years, or life. The fine can be even larger for convictions of multiple counts of the crime.
Learn about the 8 steps in a criminal case—from arrest to sentencing to appeal—so you know what to expect.
Get the best Houston sex crime defense lawyer
Not everyone who faces a charge of sex trafficking is guilty of the crime. Sometimes law enforcement officers cast wide nets in sting operations—nets that may snare innocent persons in Houston, Montgomery County or Fort Bend County.
Their freedom and their future can depend on the quality of legal defense that they acquire.
If you or a family member in the Houston area faces a claim or a charge of sex trafficking—or any other sex crime—you must get the best sex crime defense attorney you can find.