On 29th December Ghislaine Maxwell’s five-week trial concluded and she was found guilty of five out of the six charges brought against her. Her thoughts will now be turning to appeal and sentence.
Maxwell’s legal team have already indicated she is likely to appeal, though it is currently unclear on what basis this will be. Some US legal commentators have speculated that the directions to the jury may form part of their pleadings. There were also several motions before the trial where complaints were made about her limited access to legal papers in prison and restrictions on her ability to communicate with her legal team. This may have hampered her ability to prepare her defence but may not be enough to overturn her conviction.
For Maxwell’s appeal to succeed, the federal appellate court will need to be persuaded there was some irregularity in the trial process affecting its fairness and/or an issue of law that made the conviction unlawful. This is not an easy hurdle to overcome.
A date for sentence has yet to be announced, but at this hearing it is likely the prosecution will be arguing Maxwell’s culpability was high. She was the procurer, the person who found the girls, groomed many of them, and served them up to Epstein to be abused, even engaging in abuse herself.
The defence submissions are likely to invite the court to focus solely on Maxwell’s personal role in the conspiracy and will likely emphasise the personal mitigation leading to her involvement and continued cooperation with Jeffrey Epstein.
A key issue will be whether each offence should be sentenced concurrently or consecutively. There are strong grounds for the former on the basis each offence was part of an overall conspiracy, rather than a series of separate offences. If the judge agrees, the overall sentence is likely to be adjusted upwards to reflect the totality of the offending.
The length of Maxwell’s term will also depend on whether the judge imposes an indeterminate sentence or a determinate sentence. This would have implications on whether she could apply for early release and how long her post-release supervision would be. Either way, the time she has spent in custody since July 2020 will be subtracted from her prison term.
Based on the maximum sentence available for each offence, the most Maxwell could receive is 65 years, although the final number is likely to be lower. Were the judge to impose a sentence as high as the maximum, this would almost certainly prompt an additional appeal against sentence by Maxwell’s team.
To add to her woes, Maxwell is also facing two separate charges of perjury which were severed from the original indictment and now await a trial date. The allegation is that she lied during a 2016 deposition concerning a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre. During her evidence Maxwell denied knowledge of Jeffrey Epstein’s exploitation of underage girls.
Bearing in mind the inevitability of a custodial sentence, the court could delay sentence in the first trial until the outcome of the second trial so Maxwell can be sentenced for all matters at once. This may depend on the timing of the second trial and whether Maxwell prefers to be sentenced sooner as the maximum sentence for the perjury charges is only five years.
At present it is unclear how any of these arguments will be determined. However, between the appeal proceedings and this second trial, the one thing we can be sure of is that Maxwell’s courtroom drama is unlikely to be over for some time.