Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday in a New York courtroom.
Two and a half years after multiple instances of sexual misconduct came to light, a court in New York has sentenced the former film mogul Harvey Weinstein to 23 years. The revelations had triggered the #MeToo movement.
The announcement of the sentence on Wednesday not only ended a court trial. The verdict signifies success and, ideally, at least partial satisfaction for scores of women who claim to have been sexually harassed by Weinstein. It marks an interim conclusion to a dirty system of power, dependency and exploitation maintained by Weinstein for decades before it collapsed after media reports in 2017.
“I really feel remorse for this situation,” Weinstein said, his voice barely audible, as he addressed the court before the sentence was handed down. “I feel it deeply in my heart. I will spend my time really caring and really trying to be a better person.”
“I’m not going to say that these aren’t great people,” he also said of his accusers. “I’ve had wonderful times with these people.”
Weinstein wore a blank face as he was taken out of the courtroom. His accusers cried together in the front row.
Weinstein, 67, arrived to his sentencing hearing in a wheelchair and handcuffs. The former movie producer faced between five and 29 years for last month’s convictions on first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape.
The guilty verdict in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and rape case was hailed as a turning point in the #MeToo movement but his attorneys say he never had a chance at a fair trial.
The disgraced movie mogul was convicted of committing a criminal sex act in the first degree involving one woman and rape in the third degree involving another. He was acquitted of the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault involving the two women and one count of first-degree rape.
In 2017, Ronan Farrow published a groundbreaking report in The New Yorker with firsthand accounts from women who alleged that they were the victims of harrowing sexual harassment and assault by the powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Farrow’s piece, along with reporting by the Times, helped launch the #MeToo movement and ushered in a new way of thinking about sexual harassment in the workplace.
First, the New York Times reported on sexual harassment and hush money payments to women employees and actresses. A few days later, an article by Ronan Farrow was published in The New Yorker documenting several accounts by victims of sexual harassment and rape committed by Weinstein.
Following the reports, more than 100 women mustered the courage to identify themselves as sexual victims of the Hollywood mogul. Women who had rejected Weinstein came forward as well, reporting that they had consequently been excluded from film projects and that he had recommended other studios to discontinue hiring them. For their revelations, Farrow and the New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey won a Pulitzer Prize.
An open secret
Theirs were the first substantial reports in the Weinstein affair, but they were long an open secret in Hollywood’s entertainment industry. Female employees new to his production company were warned about the boss. Awards ceremonies and even TV series like 30 Rock and Action made clear references to his notorious casting couch. But not even established film stars dared to bring Weinstein’s behavior to light.
After the scandal erupted, American actress Alyssa Milano established the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter and called on all women with similar experiences to come out in the open.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Milano addressed Weinstein’s victims and women worldwide who have experienced sexual harassment. In early 2018, more than 300 prominent women launched “Time’s Up” to combat sexual harassment at the workplace. Geared toward women from other professions, the initiative offered legal support.
Within days of the revelations of October 2017, Weinstein’s colleagues in the board of administrators deposed him as manager of the The Weinstein Company, source of The King’s Speech, Django Unchained and other films. In March 2018, the company filed for bankruptcy.
A number of associations excluded Weinstein, including the film academies that award the Bafta British film prize, the TV Emmys and the Academy Awards. After revising its code of conduct in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, the latter evicted Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski from its ranks half a year later. Allegations against other celebrities went public, including Kevin Spacey, Placido Domingo and Asia Argento, herself a Weinstein accuser.
Judge James Burke sentenced Weinstein to 20 years in prison for first-degree criminal sex act and 3 years in prison for third-degree rape. The sentences will run consecutively and both come with 5 years of supervision after release.
The charges were based on testimony by Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, who both spoke at Wednesday’s sentencing.
“If Harvey Weinstein had not been convicted by this jury, it would have happened again and again and again,” Haley told the court. “I’m relieved he will now know he’s not above the law. I’m relieved there are women out there who are safer because he’s not out there.”
Weinstein’s statement came as a surprise
Weinstein’s comments in court Wednesday were unexpected. In general, defendants planning to appeal a guilty verdict or who face other charges do not speak at sentencing because what they say can be used against them, according to Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who has worked in criminal defense.
Weinstein also said he believed the relationships with women who spoke out against him were consensual, specifically mentioning Mann. “I really, really was under that impression that I had that kind of relationship, five years with Jessica,” he said.
Haley, Mann and the four other women who testified against Weinstein at his trial — Mann, actress Annabella Sciorra and three “prior bad acts” witnesses — arrived to court with prosecutors and sat in the front row. Actress Rosie Perez, who testified in support of Sciorra’s claims, walked in with them and sat in the second row.
Weinstein was acquitted of two more serious charges of predatory sexual assault, which could have come with a life sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon on Wednesday asked Burke to sentence Weinstein to the maximum or near the maximum sentence, with the sentences served concurrently.
Defense attorneys have asked that he get the minimum possible sentence: five years. Anything more than that is “basically the death penalty,” defense attorney Arthur Aidala said, citing Weinstein’s health and age. He called him a “broken down man.”
Weinstein has been in state custody since the verdict and has had several health issues. He had a heart procedure last week during which doctors inserted a stent, and on Sunday he fell while at Rikers Island jail, his publicist Juda Engelmayer told the media.
Defense asks for 5 years in prison
Illuzzi-Orbon on Wednesday referenced the submitted sentencing memo that she said detailed additional accounts of victims of Weinstein’s abuse and show his lack of human empathy, selfishness, and a life rooted in criminality. One assistant told prosecutors Weinstein threatened to kill her and her entire family, Illuzzi-Orbon said.
The prosecutor also described the glamorous lifestyle Weinstein lived as a giant of the movie industry.”He got drunk on the power,” Illuzzi-Orbon said. “Young struggling dreamers were not real people to him.”
Illuzzi-Orbon read a profile of Weinstein given to hotel employees in which they were cautioned, “Do not go near the car. Do not speak at him. Do not look at him. Stay away.”Illuzzi-Orbon thanked the six women who testified against Weinstein and thanked them for attending the sentencing hearing. She also thanked the news media for its coverage. And she thanked Burke, noting that the trial lasted a week longer than anticipated.