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Harvey Weinstein Gets 23 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault (3)

March 11, 2020, 6:00 PM

Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault after decades of using his immense power in Hollywood to target aspiring actresses.

The sentence, close to the maximum, drew audible gasps in the lower Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday and prompted the two victims at the center of the case to embrace and burst into sobs.

Weinstein, 67, had just finished a rambling speech seeking mercy, comparing his prosecution to the McCarthy era, when New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke pronounced his sentence.

WATCH: Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said her client didn’t get a fair trial.
(Source: Bloomberg)

“Everybody is on some kind of blacklist,” Weinstein told the court, at one point prodded by his lawyer to wrap it up. “We are going through this crisis right now in our country. It started, basically, with me. I was the first example, and now there are many men who have been accused of abuse, something I think that none of us understood.”

Weinstein’s next stop is likely to be a maximum-security prison an hour north of the courtroom, as New York corrections officials decide where he’ll do his time. After the sentencing, the court officers surrounding Weinsteinhandcuffed him to his wheelchair and rolled him out. He faces separate sex assault charges in Los Angeles, where prosecutors sought his extradition shortly after the hearing.

Harvey Weinstein
Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

“We thank the court for imposing a sentence that puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. Referring to the producer’s victims, he said, “Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent.”

Even with credit for good behavior, Weinstein will have to serve almost 20 years of his sentence and would be close to 90 on his release. Lead defense attorney Donna Rotunno called the punishment “obscene.”

“There are murderers who will get out faster than Harvey Weinstein,” Rotunno said. “That number spoke to the pressure of movements and the public. That number did not speak to the evidence that came out at trial” or “to justice,” she said. “I think it is a cowardly number to give.”

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi had asked for the maximum term of 29 years.

Lead defense lawyer Donna Rotunno
Photographer: David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Bloomberg

Weinstein, who became an emblem of the #MeToo movement as waves of women accused him of harassing or attacking them over the years, was convicted last month of a first-degree criminal sexual act for forcing oral sex on production assistant Miriam Haley and of third-degree rape for an attack on actor Jessica Mann. He had asked the judge for five years, citing his age and failing health and calling a long prison term “a de facto life sentence.”

Asked for Weinstein’s reaction on hearing the sentence, defense lawyer Barry Kamins said he had no visible response but “was blown away by it.”

Read More: Weinstein Plans His Appeal as Verdict Opens Door to Women

If his conviction on Feb. 24 was greeted as a milestone of the #MeToo movement -- a powerful man held to account in a court of law -- his sentence was also keenly anticipated. Weinstein reigned over the U.S. independent film industry in the 1990s, co-founding Miramax Film NY LLC with his brother Bob and producing two decades of hits, from “My Left Foot” and “The Crying Game” to “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

But his dark side, pursued with impunity, became an open secret in Hollywood and stayed that way for decades, until it burst into public view in graphic accounts in the New York Times and the New Yorker in 2017. Vance brought charges a year later.

Weinstein’s six accusers from the trial strode into the courtroom just before 9 a.m. in a show of force, with Vance just behind. Mann and Haley read highly charged victim-impact statements.

“Harvey was the power over the powerless,” Mann said, adding that Weinstein went so far as to threaten her father “with an old-school Mafia beatdown.”

After the sentencing, Tina Tchen, CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation, said she hoped the sentence “brings all of the survivors of Harvey Weinstein some measure of peace.”

“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,” Tchen said in a statement

Read More: Weinstein’s Life Behind Bars Is Hospital Jails and TV Fights

At his trial, Weinstein’s defense team worked to convince a jury of seven men and five women that their client was just a man of large appetites who had consensual sex with women who used him to advance their careers. They argued that Haley continued to reach out to the producer with affectionate emails and that Mann sustained their relationship for years. They said the women had “relabeled” the encounters as attacks in the wake of #MeToo.

In the end, prosecutors prevailed, after calling several women beyond Mann and Haley to help prove that Weinstein’s encounters with the two weren’t consensual. A forensic psychiatrist testified that behavior like Haley’s and Mann’s is common in women assaulted by men they know.

After five days of deliberations, jurors found Weinstein guilty on the two counts. He was acquitted of two other counts, of predatory sexual assault, which carried a maximum term of life behind bars, and first-degree rape, which requires proof of “forcible compulsion.” Third-degree rape involves the victim’s “lack of consent.”

In seeking leniency from Burke, defense lawyers argued their client had already lost his livelihood and was now a notorious criminal whose fall was “perhaps unmatched in the age of social media.”

Read More: A #MeToo Reckoning Two Years in the Making

Prosecutors asked Burke for a sentence that reflected “a lifetime of abuse toward others, sexual and otherwise,” dating back to the 1970s, and a “total lack of remorse,” to deter Weinstein and others from similar conduct.

They alleged 16 instances of sexual harassment and assault for which Weinstein was never charged and cited numerous other accounts of violence and intimidation, saying he had hurled staplers at staff, threatened to castrate a board member and knocked Bob Weinstein unconscious at a business meeting.

Raised in New York City’s borough of Queens, Weinstein graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1973 and started a concert promotion business. From there he made his way to art house films and, ultimately, the height of power in Hollywood.

Read More

  • From Cannes to Con: A Harsh New Life Behind Bars
  • #MeToo Movement Is Bigger Than Weinstein
  • Three Accusers Could Send Producer to Prison for Life
  • ‘Trial of the Century’ Gets Its Own Podcast
  • Jury Stuck on Gravest Charge, Told to Keep Trying
  • Weinstein Was Jekyll and Hyde, Witness Tells Jury
  • Defense Mocks D.A.’s Case, Urges ‘Courage’ on Jurors

(Updates with statement by the Time’s Up Foundation)

To contact the reporters on this story:
Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at pathurtado@bloomberg.net;
Olivia Raimonde in New York at oraimonde@bloomberg.net;
Chris Dolmetsch in Federal Court in Manhattan at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net

Peter Jeffrey

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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