Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape, sexual assault
Former Hollywood film mogul says he was 'totally confused' by the case
Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison following his conviction last month for rape and sexual assault, a stunning conclusion to the meteoric fall of the former Hollywood heavyweight.
New York Judge James Burke delivered the sentence to the Oscar-winning producer of films like Shakespeare in Love, The King's Speech and Pulp Fiction in a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday.
Last month, a jury convicted Weinstein, 67, of third-degree rape against former actress Jessica Mann and a first-degree criminal sex act against former production assistant Miriam Haley, who changed her surname from Haleyi after first going public about Weinstein.
Both women were present Wednesday to deliver victim impact statements.
"Rape is not just one moment of penetration. It is forever," Mann said.
"I believe that if Harvey Weinstein was not convicted by this jury, it would happen again and again and again," noted Haley.
Joining the two women in the front row of the courtroom were the other four women who had testified during the trial about being assaulted by Weinstein: Tarale Wulff, Dawn Dunning, Lauren Young and Annabella Sciorra.
Weinstein had faced a maximum of 29 years in prison, and Burke's decision reflected the higher range of New York's sentencing guidelines. The disgraced producer received three years for the rape conviction (which carried a maximum sentence of four years) and 20 years for the sexual assault conviction (which held a sentencing range of between five and 25 years).
"Although this is a first conviction, this is not a first offence," Burke said before revealing the sentence.
The ruling marks a significant milestone for the #MeToo movement, the global reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse that was burned into public consciousness starting in fall 2017 after bombshell exposés alleging widespread sexual misconduct by Weinstein.
"Harvey Weinstein's legacy will always be that he's a convicted rapist. He is going to jail — but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused," the Silence Breakers, a group of dozens of women who have accused the former producer of sexual misconduct, said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Time's Up, a charitable group founded in early 2018 in response to the flood of allegations against Weinstein and focused on supporting victims of sexual harassment and assault, praised the "courage and strength" of the women who testified in the New York case and extended the sentiment to the many others who have also accused him of misconduct.
"We can only hope that today's sentence brings all of the survivors of Harvey Weinstein some measure of peace," Tina Tchen, president of the Time's Up Foundation, said in a statement.
"We also hope that these women take pride in knowing the impact they have had on our culture at large. Whether by inspiring more survivors to come forward and seek help, changing how the justice system responds to sexual violence, or leading corporate boards to hold more CEOs accountable for toxic workplace culture, the social change catalyzed by these survivors has been nothing short of transformational."
Though he declined to take the stand during the trial, Weinstein made a rambling statement toward the end of the sentencing hearing, saying that he felt "remorse" over his situation. But he also noted that he felt "totally confused" by the case sending him to prison since he had fond memories of "friendships" with his accusers.
"I had wonderful times with these people," he said.
Weinstein also made a jab at the current climate surrounding men accused of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct.
"I'm worried about this country" he said. "This is not the right atmosphere in the United States of America."
Weinstein had used a walker throughout the recent trial and arrived at court in a wheelchair on Wednesday. He spent more than a week after his conviction in hospital due to a variety of medical issues and, last week, had a stent placed to unblock an artery.
After the hearing, defence lawyer Donna Rotunno noted that during that heart procedure, doctors found "other issues" but declined to give further details. Along with confirming that an appeal would be filed, she also blasted the judge for his harsh sentence and suggested he felt "some type of pressure" due to the #MeToo movement.
"Judge Burke was already prepared to say and do whatever he [wanted] …. Mr. Weinstein never had a fair shake from Day 1," she told reporters.
Watch | Defence lawyer Donna Rotunno blasts Weinstein sentence:
Weinstein, who had been held at New York's Rikers Island jail, will now be taken into the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, where officials will evaluate and determine in which prison he will serve his sentence.
He will be required to register as a sex offender under New York law.
'Women are no longer going to suffer in silence'
For years a prominent fixture at Hollywood award shows for producing or distributing a host of acclaimed films, Weinstein also now faces four criminal charges in another of his former stomping ground, Los Angeles.
The charges — including rape and sexual battery — relate to two separate incidents alleged to have taken place in February 2013, the same week as that year's Oscars.
On Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that her office has begun the process of extraditing Weinstein to California to face those charges. An arraignment date, however, is still pending.
The 23-year sentence is "long enough for [Weinstein] to at least begin to understand what he has done," said attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Haley as well as accusers Sciorra and Young.
"I will see him again in Los Angeles," she added, referring to the West Coast case.
Watch | Attorney Gloria Allred on the significance of Weinstein's sentence:
"We are living in an age where women are no longer going to suffer in silence," Allred told reporters outside the Manhattan courthouse following the hearing.
"I'm feeling it in many places around the world. Women are going to speak out and seek justice … in every world where they walk. And they're going to demand respect and dignity and justice — because justice has been far behind in meeting the needs and rights of women."
With files from The Associated Press, Steven D'Souza and Zulekha Nathoo