By Laura Ly and Eric Levenson, CNN
Federal prosecutors asked a judge in a court filing Wednesday to sentence Ghislaine Maxwell to 30 to 55 years in prison for sex trafficking a minor and other charges related to a sprawling conspiracy to abuse young girls with the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein.
“Maxwell was an adult who made her own choices. She made the choice to sexually exploit numerous underage girls. She made the choice to conspire with Epstein for years, working as partners in crime and causing devastating harm to vulnerable victims,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo. “She should be held accountable for her disturbing role in an extensive child exploitation scheme.”
Last week, Maxwell’s lawyers asked a judge to sentence her to between 4.25 and 5.25 years in prison, saying her difficult childhood made her vulnerable to Epstein and that she shouldn’t face a harsh sentence because of his actions.
“But this Court cannot sentence Ms. Maxwell as if she were a proxy for Epstein simply because Epstein is no longer here,” her attorneys wrote in their sentencing recommendation. “Ms. Maxwell cannot and should not bear all the punishment for which Epstein should have been held responsible.”
Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, his confidante and former girlfriend, was arrested a year afterward and has been held in jail since.
In the sentencing memo, the prosecution wrote that the defense’s argument was “absurd and offensive.”
“The lenient sentence the defendant seeks would send the message that there is one system of laws for the rich and powerful, and another set for everyone else,” prosecutors wrote.
The filing comes a week before her expected sentencing on June 28. Maxwell, 60, was found guilty of five federal charges in December: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy.
However, she will only be sentenced on three counts after the judge presiding over her case agreed that two of the conspiracy counts she faced were repetitive.
The probation department recommended a 20-year sentence, below the sentencing guidelines.
At her trial late last year, prosecutors argued Maxwell and Epstein conspired to set up a scheme to lure young girls into sexual relationships with Epstein from 1994 to 2004 in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. Four women testified during the trial that Epstein abused them and that Maxwell facilitated the abuse and sometimes participated in it as well.
Her defense, meanwhile, said she was a “scapegoat” for Epstein’s actions and attacked the memories and motivations of the women who said they were sexually abused.
What the prosecution’s sentencing memo argues
Prosecutors described Maxwell’s conduct as “shockingly predatory,” calling her a “calculating, sophisticated, and dangerous criminal who preyed on vulnerable young girls and groomed them for sexual abuse.”
“Maxwell’s victims trusted her: she was a seemingly respectable woman who showed interest in them and promised to help them. She was key to the entire operation of the scheme, and Epstein could not have committed these crimes without her,” prosecutors wrote.
US attorneys also said that Maxwell “enjoyed a remarkable life of privilege, having lived in luxury and moved in social circles among the famous and powerful,” countering her attorney’s claims that she had a difficult upbringing.
In fact, it was her wealth and status that was able to “provide a cover of respectability to Epstein that lulled the victims and their families into a false sense of security,” prosecutors argued.
“Although many defendants come before sentencing courts with compelling mitigating factors from difficult upbringings, Maxwell is not among them,” prosecutors wrote. “While the defendant may have had a marginally less positive experience than other exceptionally wealthy children, it is difficult to see how stern conversation at the family dinner table is an excuse for participating in a child exploitation scheme.”
Prosecutors said that Maxwell has shown no acceptance of responsibility for the harm she has caused her victims. Rather, she has attempted to cast herself as a victim herself, the memo states.
In the defense’s filing, Maxwell’s attorneys said her time behind bars has been a “disproportionate pre-sentence punishment” that will not end now that she’s housed with the general population. Her attorneys claimed she was most recently threatened by an inmate in her unit who allegedly told her that an additional 20 years in prison would be “worth the money” she’d get for killing Maxwell.
Her attorneys also argued she’s subject to multiple pat downs a day where she alleges “to have been touched in a sexually inappropriate manner by correction officers” several times.
However, prosecutors said her claims that she has received unfair treatment are inaccurate. Maxwell has “enjoyed remarkable privileges as a high-profile inmate that vastly exceed the benefits accorded to the average inmate,” including access to a private shower, television, desktop computer, laptop, and her own space to spend time outside of her cell, the memo states.
Prosecutors are also requesting that the court impose a maximum allowable fine of $750,000.
“As part of a disturbing agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell identified, groomed, and abused multiple victims, while she enjoyed a life of extraordinary luxury and privilege,” the prosecution wrote. “In her wake, Maxwell left her victims permanently scarred with emotional and psychological injuries. That damage can never be undone, but it can be accounted for in crafting a just sentence for Maxwell’s crimes.”
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CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.