More than two years after dozens of women bravely stepped forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, the disgraced movie mogul has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault.
Weinstein, 67, was convicted last month of sexually assaulting former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haleyi and raping former actress Jessica Mann. The Oscar-winner—who was handcuffed to his wheelchair as he was removed from the courtroom—faced a minimum of five years and as much as 29 years in prison.
“It is time for people who rape other people to pay with their life and the life they took,” Mann told the court shortly before he was sentenced.
All six women who testified against Weinstein at trial tearfully embraced as the sentence was read and received a round of applause as they walked out of the courtroom.
Both Haleyi and Mann delivered emotional statements at the sentencing, describing the trauma they’ve endured in the aftermath of their assaults.
“He violated my trust, my body, and my basic right to reject his sexual advances,” Haleyi said. “When he attacked me that evening, it scarred me emotionally and physically.”
During the hearing, Weinstein delivered a rambling statement of his own that garnered gasps in the courtroom, claiming that he had “serious friendships” with the two women and insisting he never really had much power in Hollywood.
“I am a builder. I know how to build and I know how to generate things on a charitable nature, and I know how to pass my success forward,” he said, claiming that his victims would say he’s “generous in that part of the relationship.”
Weinstein went on to say that he’s “totally confused” and while he has “remorse for his situation,” he’s worried about America.
“I am just feeling for the thousands of men and women who are losing due process,” he said. “I am worried for this country.”
“People are losing their jobs over the fact that they testified,” he continued. “This is the United States of America. This is wrong. I had no great powers in this industry. At the height of its fame, Miramax was a small company.”
Weinstein’s defense team said they planned to appeal. Defense attorney Donna Rotunno told reporters outside the courthouse that the sentence was “absurd” and she was “overcome by anger at that number,” claiming he “never had a fair shake from day one.”
“Nothing, it means nothing to me,” Rotunno said when asked about what Weinstein’s sentence means to the #MeToo movement.
The six women who testified against the movie mogul sat in the front row of the packed Manhattan Supreme Courtroom, after entering together. The Oscar-winning film producer, who was dressed in a black suit and entered in a wheelchair, glanced at the row of his accusers before sitting with his legal team.
“Simply put, without these women and others who were willing to come forward, be 100 percent transparent, sacrifice their privacy and well being, the [allegations] would have never been taken in and would have never been successful and the defendant would have never stopped destroying lives,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said Wednesday. “Each of these ladies represents the resilience of every moral person who stands up and says ‘enough.’”
Throughout his four-week watershed trial in Manhattan, prosecutors argued Weinstein abused his power and prestige in the entertainment industry, preying on women for more than three decades and promising to kickstart their careers in exchange for sex acts.
While over 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape, jurors only heard from six women at the trial.
Most detailed in court how Weinstein lured them into isolated places to discuss their goals in the entertainment industry before sexually assaulting them. The women all admitted they never told the authorities about the abuse out of embarrassment and fear of career ruin.
“The young struggling dreamers were not even people to him. He could take what he wanted knowing there was very little anyone could do about it,” Illuzzi said Wednesday.
On Friday, Illuzzi argued in a sentencing memo to Burke that Weinstein should receive a substantial amount of prison time to reflect the lives he destroyed over the last four decades—accusing him of 30 incidents of sexual assault, harassment, and workplace bullying since 1978.
In addition to detailing 16 new allegations of sexual assault, Illuzzi also described how Weinstein threw staples at female assistants, once knocked his brother unconscious, and “bragged about his ability to get people killed.” In 2015, Weinstein also allegedly threatened a board member “that he would send someone to his office to cut off his genitals with garden shears.”
“These acts, viewed in their totality, establish that throughout his entire adult professional life, the defendant has displayed a staggering lack of empathy, treating others with disdain and inhumanity,” the prosecutor wrote. “He has consistently advanced his own sordid desires and fixations over the well-being of others. He has destroyed people’s lives and livelihoods or threatened to do so on a whim.”
Weinstein’s defense team insisted throughout the trial that Weinstein had only consensual sexual relationships with the women who testified against him. In a Monday evening letter, Weinstein’s legal team asked Burke to consider giving him five years behind bars—which they called “a de facto life sentence” given their client’s health problems.
In addition to Mann and Haleyi, jurors heard from four corroborating witnesses whose allegations fell outside the statute of limitations: Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein violently raped her in her apartment in 1993 or 1994; Dawn Dunning, who said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2004; Tarale Wulff, who was allegedly assaulted by the producer a year later; and Lauren Young, who was allegedly assaulted in Weinstein’s Beverly Hills hotel room days before the 2013 Oscars.
“When Judge Burke said 20, for the first time I can say I feel a sense of happiness I guess,” Wulff said outside the courthouse on Wednesday.
During deliberations, jurors were asked to weigh Sciorra’s testimony as an aggravating factor to support two counts of predatory sexual assault. After five days of deliberations, jurors ultimately cleared him of the counts related to Sciorra on Feb. 24.
Actress Rosie Perez, who testified during the trial to corroborate Sciorra’s allegations, was also present Wednesday and walked in holding her longtime friend’s arm. She sat a row behind the Weinstein accusers, while Sciorra sat in between Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and Haleyi.
Weinstein was remanded immediately after the verdict was read but went to New York’s Bellevue Hospital instead of Rikers Island jail complex after he experienced high blood pressure and heart palpitations. He later “had a stent put in to open a blockage,” and remained at the hospital for 10 days.
Hours after his sentencing on Wednesday, he was once again moved to Bellevue Hospital after complaining of chest pains. His spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Rikers staff “had decided for safety” to have him checked out at the hospital.
The movie mogul is set to remain at Rikers temporarily until he is deemed ready to be transferred to a state prison facility, a state corrections official told The Daily Beast. Weinstein’s legal team said he is pushing to be housed at Fishkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
Weinstein’s legal battle doesn’t end with Wednesday’s sentencing. The movie mogul also faces four sex crimes charges in Los Angeles for allegedly raping one woman and sexually assaulting another over a two-day period in 2013. On Wednesday, just two hours after Weinstein was sentenced in New York, LA prosecutors announced they have “begun the process of extraditing” him, but no arraignment date has been set.