NEW YORK (AP) — Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for helping the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.
Her hearing in New York was the culmination of a prosecution that detailed how Epstein and Maxwell flaunted their riches and associations with prominent people to groom vulnerable girls and then exploit them.
Epstein died in prison in 2019 after being indicted on federal sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell denies abusing anyone.
Her lawyers have asked the judge to sentence her to no more than five years in prison. According to CNN, Maxwell will be sentenced on only three of the five counts she was convicted of because the judge said two of the conspiracy charges were repetitive.
Prosecutors said she deserves at least 30 years behind bars.
I-TEAM | Human Trafficking Coverage
The ABC Action News I-Team spoke with Breanna Cole, an outreach advocate with the Sarasota-based anti-human traficking nonprofit Selah Freedom, after the sentencing.
“I am a survivor of sex trafficking. I came in contact with Selah Freedom in 2016 when my trafficker was arrested," Cole said. “I had more than one trafficker and was caught up in that life and didn’t realize that there was a way out for a long time”
Seeing the news that 60-year-old Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in the sex trafficking of minor girls, Cole said, “To be honest, I was a little upset. I truly feel that she should have gotten more time."
“I’m grateful that, you know, she did — was held accountable to an extent, but I really feel that it should have been more time," Cole said.
The Department of Justice said, from at least 1994 to 2004, Maxwell helped Epstein recruit, groom and abuse victims known to be under 18 at his homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico and London.
According to the New York Times, when Maxwell addressed the court on Tuesday, she said, "I believe that Jeffrey Epstein was a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalized life and fooled all of those in his orbit."
Addressing victims, she later added, "I am sorry for the pain that you experienced."
“It’s wonderful that these survivors are being heard and coming forward. I really hope that they have some closure with this. And to any other people that are watching this that are stuck in the life, you know, there’s a way out. And you don’t have to — this doesn’t have to be the end of your story," Cole said.
If you believe you are a victim of Human Trafficking or suspect an adult is a victim of human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline, or call them at 1-888-373-7888. If you suspect a child is a victim, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.
Selah Freedom: 1-888-8-FREE-ME