Ghislaine Maxwell’ was convicted on Wednesday of recruiting and grooming teens to be sexually abused by her and late financier Jeffrey Epstein on charges that could land her in prison for up to 65 years — but experts told Fox News she will likely spend far less time behind bars.
"I expect her to receive a significant sentence, but it will not be approaching anything close to 65 years," said high-profile attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Former Manhattan federal prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer Roland Riopelle said he expects a sentence closer to two decades. "I would be very surprised if the guidelines were less than 10 to 15 years but certainly could be closer to 20," he said.
It’s possible that Maxwell, who turned 60 on Christmas Day, could spend the rest of her life in prison depending on the sentence that U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan hands her.
"Judge Nathan is very smart, thoughtful and evenhanded, but I just don’t see her having a lot of sympathy for Ghislaine Maxwell who hung around with Jeffrey Epstein for years and years," said Riopelle, who represented Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff's former secretary.
Epstein, a convicted pedophile, killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Maxwell’s lawyers have argued that after his death she became a scapegoat for his crimes. She maintains her innocence.
Maxwell faces a second trial in Manhattan federal court on two counts of perjury, after her lawyers asked that she be tried separately on those charges. Prosecutors say she lied under oath during a 2016 deposition about Epstein’s abuse of young girls.
But first the judge is expected to set a sentencing schedule after the jury found her guilty of five of six sex crimes counts, capping off a month-long trial. Her actual sentencing date could be as far out as 120 days, Riopelle said.
One of Maxwell’s attorneys, Bobbie Sterheim, said her client would appeal. In the coming days, her legal team will likely ask the judge to throw out the verdict.
"Most of those motions are denied unless there is some legal technicality violated, but it is the first step in the lengthy appeals process," Riopelle said.
Before sentencing, the former jet-setting British socialite, who once counted royalty and billionaires as close friends, will be interviewed by probation about her personal history and finances for a report.
The defense will file motions arguing for leniency while the prosecution will likely push for a harsh penalty.
After the sentencing, the defense has 10 days to file a notice of appeal. Then the real work begins. Maxwell’s legal team will file a petition with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the verdict and demand a new trial. The appeals court usually rules in about a year.
"It’s a long shot," said Lichtman. "The 2nd Circuit is not known for upsetting the verdicts of very high profile, vilified defendants especially in cases that are not white collar."
If the 2nd Circuit rejects Maxwell’s bid for a new trial, her attorneys can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up her case "but the chances they will are very small," he said.
The whole appeals process can take close to 2 1/2 years to exhaust, according to Lichtman.
The favorite daughter of late press baron Robert Maxwell has been locked up since her July 2019 arrest at the dreaded Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Maxwell’s lawyers filed motion after motion blasting what was described as inhumane conditions at the facility and pushing for her release on bail. But the judge rejected a $28.5 million bail package, ruling that Maxwell was a flight risk.
But the Oxford University graduate won't remain much longer at the notorious federal lock up.
"She may end up in a very serious prison," Lichtman said. "But I can tell you this, where she’s going is better than where she’s been."