Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison
Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison. Judge James Burke handed down the decision in a Manhattan courtroom Wednesday as the disgraced movie mogul watched, flanked by his legal team.
His 20-year sentence for a criminal sexual act, the more serious of the two counts he was convicted of last month, is on the higher end of New York state’s guidelines. For the other count, rape in the third degree, Weinstein was sentenced to three years in prison.
The sentence Wednesday caps Weinstein’s precipitous fall from the heights of Hollywood, where for decades he brandished his power and influence like a blunt instrument — and allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of young women, intimidating them and others into silence.
Those allegations, which gathered momentum with the release of a pair of exposés in October 2017, landed him in court earlier this year to face his first criminal trial. The charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, could have led to him spending the rest of his life in prison — though jurors, after hearing weeks of arguments and deliberating another five days, acquitted him of the most serious charges.
Weinstein’s legal team cited this mixed verdict in its sentencing letter to the court, pointing out his charity work and arguing that two of the principal witnesses in the trial — Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann — offered “extremely complicated” descriptions of their relationships with Weinstein.
“Given his age and specific medical risk factors,” his attorneys said, “any additional term of imprisonment above the mandatory minimum — although the grave reality is that Mr. Weinstein may not even outlive that term — is likely to constitute a de facto life sentence.”
Weinstein displayed signs of poor health throughout the court hearings, which he attended with the aid of a walker. After his verdict was read — and before heading to the Rikers Island jail complex, where he awaited sentencing — authorities rerouted him to a hospital, where doctors placed a stent in his heart.
When he returned for his sentencing hearing Wednesday, he did so in a wheelchair.
Weinstein, who did not take the stand during the trial, did, however, speak to the court during the hearing. He compared himself to Dalton Trumbo, an American screenwriter who was notoriously blacklisted in the 1940s for being a member of the Communist Party. And Weinstein, whose alleged assaults help spur the #MeToo movement, which boosts the voices of survivors, compared environment it has created to the Red Scare.
“I’m worried about this country,” he said.
Prosecutors, for their part, argued against leniency by relating a list of deeply detailed allegations of sexual assault, harassment and other abuse dating back to the 1970s. In their letter to the judge, prosecutors said the examples bolstered the accounts offered by Mann, Haley and the four other women who told their stories on the witness stand.
“Rape is not that one moment of penetration,” Mann said in her statement to the court Wednesday. “It is forever.”
She and the five other women who testified that Weinstein assaulted them sat side-by-side together during the sentencing hearing as a gesture of solidarity. Among the group was Tarale Wulff, whose allegation of rape was not included in the charges but who nevertheless took the stand during the trial to support the prosecutors’ case.
In a message published Tuesday, she uttered a similar sentiment in hoping that Weinstein’s sentence “reflects what he has done to us.”
“Those events,” she wrote, “will continue to haunt me and the other survivors for the rest of our lives.”
Wednesday does not represent the last of Weinstein’s legal woes. Los Angeles prosecutors have filed criminal charges of their own against the former producer, alleging two incidents over a two-night period.
NPR’s Rose Friedman contributed to this report.