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Harvey Weinstein’s Stunning Downfall: 23 Years in Prison

‘This Is What Justice Looks Like’: Lawyers Spar Over Weinstein Sentence

Lawyers for Harvey Weinstein and his victims spoke after he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes.

Reporter: “Mr. Weinstein, are you nervous today?” “That sentence that was just handed down by this court was obscene. That number was obnoxious. There are murderers who will get out of court faster than Harvey Weinstein will. That number spoke to the pressure of movements and the public. That number did not speak to the evidence that came out at trial. That number did not speak to the testimony that we heard.” “This is what justice looks like: 20 plus three years sentence handed down by Judge Burke this morning after compelling arguments by the prosecution, and after arguments by the defense. And most importantly, after heartfelt victim impact statements. For all those who are still preying on women, who want to engage in the high-risktaking of harming women and thinking you’ll get away with it, that gamble is likely not to pay off for you anymore.” 1:21‘This Is What Justice Looks Like’: Lawyers Spar Over Weinstein SentenceLawyers for Harvey Weinstein and his victims spoke after he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes.CreditCredit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

By Jan Ransom

  • March 11, 2020Updated 5:02 p.m. ET

Harvey Weinstein, the movie producer who dominated Hollywood for decades, was sentenced on Wednesday to 23 years in prison for sex crimes, as the six women who had testified against him watched from the courtroom’s front row, holding one another, some in tears.

The startling sentence meant that Mr. Weinstein, who is 67 and in poor health, could very well spend the rest of his life in prison. Mr. Weinstein, who was sitting in a wheelchair, told the court that he was remorseful, but also “totally confused” about what had happened to him.

The moment capped a precipitous fall from power for Mr. Weinstein that started in October 2017 when, after years of rumors, several women openly accused him of sexual assault and harassment. Their stories led women around the globe to speak about mistreatment at the hands of powerful men, shifting the cultural landscape with the #MeToo movement.

Justice James A. Burke, who presided over the trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, could have sentenced Mr. Weinstein to as little as five years, but he heeded the arguments of prosecutors who urged him to hand down a long sentence.

“Although this is a first conviction, it is not a first offense,” Judge Burke said. “There is evidence before me of other incidents of sexual assault involving a number of women, all of which are legitimate considerations for sentence.”

Two of Mr. Weinstein’s victims gave emotional statements about the damage he had done to them. Miriam Haley, who testified Mr. Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006, said he had forever altered her life, crushing her spirit.

“He, with physical force, violated my trust, my body and my basic right to reject his sexual advances,” she said.

Given a chance to speak, Mr. Weinstein suggested in a rambling speech to the court that he thought his relationships with his victims were consensual.

He said he was “totally confused,” adding that he believed many men were confused about the issues raised by #MeToo. “We may have different truths, but I have great remorse for all of you,” he said, addressing his accusers. “I have great remorse for all the men and women going through this crisis right now in our country.”

He added: “I really feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deeply in my heart. I’m really trying, I’m really trying to be a better person.”

Justice Burke was unmoved. He gave Mr. Weinstein 20 years for the felony attack on Ms. Haley and an additional three years for the rape of Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress who testified he had forced himself on her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.

Ms. Mann said she hoped for a “future where monsters no longer hide in our closet.”

Jessica Mann, center, leaving a Manhattan courtroom after Mr. Weinstein’s sentencing on Wednesday.
Jessica Mann, center, leaving a Manhattan courtroom after Mr. Weinstein’s sentencing on Wednesday.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Within hours of the sentencing, the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles County announced it had begun the process of extraditing Mr. Weinstein to California to face sexual assault charges there. In January, the Los Angeles authorities charged him in connection with attacks on two women there in February 2013.

In New York, the six women who had given graphic accounts on the witness stand of Mr. Weinstein’s sexual assaults all entered the courtroom together on Wednesday, sitting in the front row of the gallery, just behind the prosecution’s table.

Next to them sat the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The rows behind Mr. Weinstein were largely empty.

A Manhattan jury of seven men and five women found Mr. Weinstein guilty on Feb. 25 of first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape.

After five days of deliberations, however, the jury acquitted Mr. Weinstein of the most serious charges against him: two counts of predatory sexual assault, which required prosecutors to prove that he had committed a serious sexual assault against at least two women.

Those charges, as constructed by prosecutors, required the jury to find Mr. Weinstein had raped the actress Annabella Sciorra in the early 1990s at her Gramercy Park apartment. But some jurors doubted her account.

The jury also determined Mr. Weinstein was not guilty of first-degree rape in the 2013 attack on Ms. Mann. That charge required the state to prove the use of force or a threat during the attack. The jury instead opted to convict him of third-degree rape, which required prosecutors to prove only that she did not consent.

Three other women — Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young — also testified at the trial. All were aspiring actresses who said Mr. Weinstein lured them into private meetings to discuss their careers then sexually assaulted them.

Mr. Weinstein was not charged in those cases, because they were too old to be prosecuted or happened outside New York. Still, Justice Burke allowed the three women to testify to establish a pattern of behavior.

Arguing for a lengthy sentence, prosecutors had pointed to a long list of allegations from other women who said Mr. Weinstein had sexually assaulted them over four decades. The earliest allegation, prosecutors noted, was from a woman who said he raped her on a business trip in 1978.

The lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi, told the court people who knew Mr. Weinstein described him as a sociopathic manipulator. She described him as a “monster” who used his power in the film industry to prey on women.

“He walked the red carpet and mingled with the stars and held the dreams of many people in his hands,” she said. “He saw no limit to what he could take.”

Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said before sentencing that the intense coverage of Mr. Weinstein’s case made a fair trial impossible.

“Mr. Weinstein came with the forces of the media and the forces of the world pushing against the chance to have a real impartial jury in this case,” she said.

She urged the judge to take into account Mr. Weinstein’s fragile health in sentencing, noting that a long sentence would be “a de facto life sentence.”

Before Mr. Weinstein was charged, reports about his sexual misconduct had been circulating in Hollywood for decades, even as the producer won critical acclaim for Oscar-winners like “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction” and reshaped the film industry.

But in late 2017, several of his accusers went public in exposés published by The New York Times and The New Yorker. Since then, more than 90 women have accused Mr. Weinstein of misconduct, including harassment, inappropriate touching and sexual assault.

Recently unsealed court documents show that, in the weeks after the articles were published, Mr. Weinstein and his team scrambled to come up with a response.

The producer desperately sought support from wealthy friends like Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon, and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York City mayor.

Mr. Weinstein, who has cardiac problems and has been housed in an infirmary at Rikers Island, will be moved to an upstate prison within 10 days, state prison officials said.

Like all city inmates convicted of violent felonies, Mr. Weinstein will first be sent to a reception area at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, said Craig Rothfeld, his prison consultant.

His arms and legs will be shackled. He will be brought into a processing center where he will receive four prison-issued shirts, three pairs of pants, a jacket, boots and sneakers.

Mr. Weinstein will be required to shave his hair, however, he can object for religious reasons, according to state prison guidelines. He will also receive a shower and a delousing treatment.

Prison officials will decide whether to house Mr. Weinstein in his own cell, in a dormitory with the general population or in solitary confinement until they determine where to house him permanently, Mr. Rothfeld said. While Downstate has a basic infirmary, it does not have a hospital unit with beds, he said.

This process, Mr. Rothfeld said, could be interrupted at any moment if prosecutors in Los Angeles successfully extradite him for an arraignment on the sexual assault charges there.

Alan Feuer contributed to this report.