Hollywood is now heralding Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault case, once seen as a referendum on the #MeToo movement, as the start of a new era for accountability.
Actresses and activists celebrated Monday when a New York jury found the producer guilty on two counts, in a decision that could send him to jail for up to 25 years.
“The era of impunity for powerful men who rape people is over,” actress Mira Sorvino said in a press call after the verdict was announced. “Harvey Weinstein has haunted many of our lives, even our nightmares, long after he did what he did to us. We have finally taken that power back... He will rot in jail as he deserves, and we will begin to have closure.”
Weinstein was convicted of a first-degree criminal sex act for assaulting former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haleyi in 2006, and of third-degree rape for assaulting former actress Jessica Mann in 2013. The charges represent just a fraction of the more than 80 women who have accused the movie mogul of assaulting or harassing them over the last 30 years.
Despite the overwhelming number of allegations, the New York case proved difficult to prosecute. Many of the allegations had already passed the statute of limitations, and one charge was dismissed after a detective was revealed to have concealed evidence.
Mann and Haleyi, meanwhile, both maintained outwardly friendly relationships with Weinstein after their assaults—a factor that even sexual assault advocates said could make the case legally murky.
Lauren Sivan, a TV reporter and Weinstein accuser, said the guilty verdict “really shows that victim blaming will not work as a defense… There’s no such thing as a perfect victim.”
“It shows that rape is rape, sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter the victims behavior,” she added, echoing comments made by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Monday, the D.A. bragged that Weinstein had “finally been held accountable for crimes he has committed.”
“The women who came forward courageously and at great risk made that happen,” he added.
Also outside the courthouse was Ambra Gutierrez, the Italian model whose sexual assault claim Vance infamously declined to prosecute in 2015—even after she produced tape of Weinstein admitting to the attack. She told The Daily Beast she was “super happy” with the verdict.
“I think today was a positive outcome and it just shows the right example for people who may be scared to come forward,” she said.
Time’s Up, an organization that addresses sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond, heralded the decision as marking “a new era of justice, not just for the Silence Breakers, who spoke out at great personal risk, but for all survivors of harassment, abuse, and assault at work.”
“The jury’s verdict sends a powerful message to the world of just how much progress has been made since the Weinstein Silence Breakers ignited an unstoppable movement,” the group said in a statement. “...Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There’s no going back.”
Six women in total testified at the nearly seven-week trial. Along with Mann and Haleyi, Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff, and Lauren Young all testified to prior “bad acts” by the producer. At times, the cross examination went on for days. Mann broke down crying on the stand at one point, causing the judge to adjourn trial for the rest of the day.
On Monday, fellow Weinstein accusers took to social media to share their appreciation for the women who testified.
“For the women who testified in this case, and walked through traumatic hell, you did a public service to girls and women everywhere, thank you,” tweeted actress Ashley Judd, who is suing Weinstein for sexual harassment.
“Gratitude to the brave women who’ve testified and to the jury for seeing through the dirty tactics of the defense,” added actress and Weinstein accuser Rosanna Arquette. “We will change the laws in the future so that rape victims are heard and not discredited and so that it’s easier for people to report their rapes.”
Several people singled out Sciorra specifically. Prosecutors had used the actress's allegations—that Weinstein had forced his way into her apartment and violently raped her in the early '90s—to support a charge of predatory sexual assault, which carries a life sentence. But the jury acquitted him on this count, finding him guilty only of the criminal sex act and third-degree rape.
“GUTTED FOR MY DEAR FRIEND #ANNABELLASCIORRA WHO TOLD THE TRUTH!” tweeted actress Rosie Perez, who testified on Sciorra’s behalf during the trial. “YET I CONGRATULATE HER & ALL WHO CAME FORWARD FOR THEIR BRAVERY. THIS IS NOT ENOUGH BUT SURVIVORS TAKE COURAGE! THIS IS STILL A GREAT WIN! CONGRATS JOAN ILLUZZI!
Padma Lakshmi also applauded Sciorra’s testimony, tweeting, “Weinstein terrorized and attacked women for decades. Now he will sit in a prison cell where he belongs.”
“Sending so much love, support and most of all gratitude to Annabella Sciorra and all of the women who came forward,” she wrote.
In a statement Monday, Sciorra called her testimony “painful but necessary.”
“I spoke for myself and with the strength of the eighty plus victims of Harvey Weinstein in my heart,” she said. “While we hope for continued righteous outcomes that bring absolute justice, we can never regret breaking the silence.”
Others, meanwhile, had already turned their attention to Los Angeles, where Weinstein still faces charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of restraint, and sexual battery by restraint. Gutierrez is a witness in that case, and said she looks forward to taking a more active role there.
Accuser Sarah Ann Masse, closing out her remarks in the press call, said the New York verdict was “a triumph for all of his survivors.”
But, she added, “We will keep fighting, and we will see you all in Los Angeles.”