The disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein who was convicted for rape and sexual assault charges in a New York court last month has been sentenced to 23 years in prison after proven guilty. Once among the most powerful producers in Hollywood, the 67-year old now condemned to prison has his lawyers pleading for leniency, saying even the minimum sentence of five years could be a life sentence.
But prosecutors argued that the preparator should be handed the maximum possible sentence considering the history of his abuse towards women and lack of remorse.
Weinstein in a wheelchair addressed the court for the first time on Wednesday, saying he had deep remorse but described him and other men as totally confused in the aftermath of #MeToo movement.
Dozens of women accused the famed film-producer of sexual misconduct including rape in Oct 2017. The lawyers of Weinstein, who consistently denies any wrongdoing and termed the sexual encounters with the women as consensual, have decided to appeal against the verdict.
Weinstein was convicted for committing a first-degree criminal sexual act against production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006- and third-degree rape of actress Jessica Mann in 2013. The panel involved in hearing acquitted him of the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault which could have invoked more serious and longer sentence.
All 6 women who testified against the pervert producer were together in court on Wednesday as their rapist heard his sentence in front of them and was told to register as a sex offender.
Both Ms. Haley and Jessica Mann whom he assaulted, read out victim impact statements in court.
“It scarred me deeply, mentally and emotionally,” said Miriam Haley remembering the day Weinstein forced oral sex on her. “What he did not only stripped me of my dignity as a human being and a woman, but it crushed my confidence.”
Her second victim, Jessica Mann criticized Weinstein’s legal team for trying to twist the truth during the trial and said she hoped for a future where “we no longer have to worry about monsters hiding in our closet.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr welcomed the decision of the court saying that it would put “predators and abusive partners on notice”.
“Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent. But they refused to be silent, and they were heard. Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars, and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world,” said Attorney.
“Harvey Weinstein’s legacy will always be that he’s a convicted rapist,” the group Silence Breakers, which speaks out against sexual assault and harassment and includes Weinstein accusers, said in a statement.
Reaction to the Verdict
“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.”
Speaking outside court, Gloria Allred, who represents three of the accusers, held up a sign with the words: “This is what justice looks like.”
“If you are a sexual predator and you are confused, all you have to do is remember this – 20 plus three years,” said Gloria.
“For all those who are still preying on women, who want to engage in the high risk-taking of harming women and thinking you’ll get away with it, that gamble is likely not to pay off for you anymore,” she added.
“And if you’re a high-profile figure, don’t expect anything but equal justice.”
The US Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) praised the significant prison term Weinstein was given.
“This case – and the national reckoning about the pervasiveness of sexual violence it sparked – will have a lasting legacy,” president Scott Berkowitz said in a statement.
“We hope that survivors will feel encouraged to come forward, knowing that it can truly make a difference in bringing perpetrators to justice,” he noted.