Politics

Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sex assault in case that sparked 'MeToo' movement

Key Points
  • Film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for a sex assault case that ignited the #MeToo movement in the United States.
  • Weinstein was convicted on Feb. 24 after a trial in a Manhattan court of rape and committing a criminal sexual act more than two years after explosive news articles about his alleged serial sexual abuse of women.
  • News stories about the movie producer in 2017 led to revelations of sexual misconduct by a number of other high-profile men in the so-called #MeToo movement.
  • "Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra had testified at the trial that she was raped by Weinstein in her apartment around 26 years ago.
Harvey Weinstein enters a Manhattan court house as a jury continues with deliberations in his trial on February 24, 2020 in New York City. prison.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison for a rape and sex assault case that ignited the #MeToo movement in the United States.

The sentence in Manhattan state court was less than the maximum 29 years requested by prosecutors, but could amount to an effective life sentence for the 67-year-old Weinstein, who has been in apparently frail health since being jailed  following his conviction Feb. 24.

The prison term also was far higher than the five years his lawyers requested from Judge James Burke.

Hours after the sentence was imposed, the Los Angeles district attorney's office said it had begun the proceess of having Weinstein extradited to California so that he can face charges lodged in January that accused him of raping one woman and sexually assaulting a second woman over a two-day period in 2013.

Watching in the Manhattan courtroom as Weinstein was sentenced were all of the women who had testified against the once-feared Hollywood mogul. They were applauded as they exited the room.

"He has been using and abusing people his whole life," prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said after Weinstein was rolled into the courtroom in a wheelchair for the hearing.

Weinstein was convicted at trial of rape and committing a criminal sexual act more than two years after explosive news articles about his alleged serial sexual abuse of women.

Jurors found him guilty of committing a first-degree criminal sexual act by forcibly performing oral sex on production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.

He also had been convicted of third-degree rape for attacking aspiring actress Jessica Mann in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013.

The producer of films including "Pulp Fiction," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Gangs of New York" was found not guilty of the most serious charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault for which he could have been sentenced to life in prison. He also was acquitted of first-degree rape.

"I really feel remorse for this situation, I feel it deeply in my heart," Weinstein told Burke on Wednesday.

"I'm trying to be a better person."

Weinstein gave long, rambling statement to Burke, saying his wives "knew nothing" about his extramarital affairs, complaining that he had not seen his children since the allegations against him were made in late 2017, and boasting of the charity fundraising he did on the heels of the 9/11 terror attacks and Superstorm Sandy.

"I had wonderful times with these people," he said, referring to the two women whose allegations led to his conviction.

"I think men are confused about these issues," Weinstein said. "I'm worried about this country, lots of men like myself are the latest examples."

Weinstein was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the attack on Haleyi and another three years, to be served consecutively, for the rape of Mann.

If he survives his prison sentence, he will have to serve five years of probation after his release.

Defense lawyers plan to appeal Weinstein's conviction.

One of Weinstein's lawyers, Donna Rotunno, called the sentence "obscene," "obnoxious" and "cowardly."

Another defense lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said it was a "sad day for the New York City criminal justice system," but added, "I have tremendous confidence in the appeals court."

Haleyi and Mann gave statements in court before Weinstein was sentenced.

Mann accused Weinstein of using  "his power over the powerless" and called the crime against her "a recurring nightmare."

"Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra had testified at the trial that she was raped by Weinstein in her apartment around 26 years ago.

Sciorra's allegations were not the subject of a separate charge against Weinstein.  But her testimony, along with that of five other women, was permitted by the judge to allow prosecutors to show a pattern of conduct by Weinstein to prove that he was guilty of predatory sexual assault against Mann and Haley.

Scores of other women have accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting them or engaging in less severe forms of sexual misconduct. He has denied all such allegations.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement, "We thank the court for imposing a sentence that puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice. We thank the survivors for their remarkable statements today and indescribable courage over the last two years."

"Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent. But they refused to be silent, and they were heard," Vance said. "Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars, and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world."

The New Yorker, in a 2017 article by Ronan Farrow, detailed how Weinstein hired private investigators, including ex-Israeli Mossad agents "to track actresses and journalists" who were working to expose his sexual misconduct. Farrow's original expose about Weinstein played a major role in his downfall.

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Weinstein has been in custody since his conviction.

He originally was taken to a medical jail unit at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan but recently was shipped to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex.

He will serve his sentence in an upstate New York prison.

The Silence Breakers, a group of Weinstein's accusers, released a statement after the sentencing hearing.

 "Harvey Weinstein's legacy will always be that he's a convicted rapist. He is going to jail – but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused," the group said.
 
"The Silence Breaker community was founded on solidarity, support, and compassion. The New York trial has ended, but the Silence Breakers will persist in our crusade for cultural change, justice and to have our voices heard."