Ghislaine Maxwell told her victims she hoped her sentence would bring them “a measure of peace and finality” moments before she was handed 20 years behind bars.
The British socialite said meeting Jeffrey Epstein was the “greatest regret of my life” and that she wanted to “acknowledge the suffering” of her victims.
Maxwell arrived for the hearing wearing a prison-issued uniform, with shackles around her ankles which rattled as she made her way to her seat in the courtroom in the Southern District of New York.
She was given the chance to speak and, to the surprise of the court, opted to do so.
Maxwell had previously declined to testify in her own defence during the trial.
“Your honour, it is hard for me to address the court after listening to the pain expressed in the statements made here today,” she said, in a lengthy and measured statement.
“I want to acknowledge the suffering (caused) and empathise… I acknowledge that I have been convicted in helping Jeffrey Epstein in these crimes.”
She continued: “I know my association with Epstein will follow and forever stain me.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein.”
Maxwell described Epstein as “a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who lived a profoundly compartmentalised life (and) who fooled all of those in his orbit.
“His victims considered him as godfather, a mentor, a benefactor, a friend, a lover,” she said.
“It is absolutely unfathomable today to think that that was how he was viewed contemporaneously.
“His impact on all those close to him has been devastating.”
She added: “Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you today. He should have stood before you all those years ago… in 2005, 2009 and again in 2019.
“But today it is not about Epstein ultimately… it is for me to be sentenced.”
Addressing her victims directly, she said: “To you, all the victims that came to today inside the court and outside… I am sorry for the pain you have experienced.
“I hope my sentence… brings you some measure of peace and helps you put those experiences of so many years ago in a place that allows you to look forward and not back.”
Maxwell added that the effects of her crimes “tortures me every single day”, and that she hoped the sentence “brings this terrible chapter to an end” and helps her victims travel from darkness into the light”.
But speaking outside court following the verdict, her victims and their representatives described the apology as “hollow” and “disappointing”.
Annie Farmer, who delivered her own victim impact statement in person to the court during the sentencing, addressed reporters.
“Her statement felt like a very hollow apology to me and she did not take responsibility for the crimes that she committed,” she said.
“It felt like once more her trying to do something to benefit her and not at all about the harm she had caused.”
But she added: “We’re very happy with the sentence.”
Ms Farmer’s lawyer, Sigrid McCawley, said: “Personally for me that was not an apology, she once again did not acknowledge her crimes, did not take responsibility for them in any way.
“So that was really disappointing.”
Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim described her client’s statement as “moving and on point”.
“And everyone should know that anybody who is appealing their sentence has the right to maintain the record and the issues on appeal,” she told reporters outside court.