Weinstein sentenced to 23 years for sexual assaults

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March 11, 2020 - 10:03 am

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein was sentenced Wednesday to 23 in prison for rape and sexual assault, a sight the Hollywood mogul's multitude of accusers thought they would never see.

Weinstein, who has been accused of violating scores of women, was convicted last month of raping a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman at his apartment in 2006. He faced a maximum of 29 years in prison.

Both women that Weinstein was convicted of assaulting — a once-aspiring actress and a former TV and film production assistant — spoke in court Wednesday before Judge James Burke announced the sentence, confronting Weinstein again after their testimony helped seal his conviction at the landmark #MeToo trial.

Burke also heard from Weinstein’s lawyers, who pleaded for leniency because of his age and frail health, and prosecutors, who said the man once celebrated as a titan of Hollywood deserved a harsh sentence that would account for allegations of wrongdoing dating to the 1970s.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below:

Harvey Weinstein told a court Wednesday that the men facing allegations in the #MeToo movement are being accused of “things that none of us understood,” saying he was confused by the rape case that was about to put him in prison.

“Thousands of men are losing due process. I’m worried about this country,” the disgraced Hollywood mogul said after two of his accusers confronted him in court.

Weinstein faced at least five years and up to 29 years behind bars in the landmark #MeToo case. He was convicted of raping an aspiring actress in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on former TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006. A second criminal case is pending in California.

Onlookers applauded the two women whom Weinstein was convicted of assaulting as they arrived in court.

Haleyi broke into tears as she told Judge James Burke that the 2006 attack scarred her deeply, made her rethink her career in the entertainment business and left her feeling paranoid and afraid of retaliation. She said she avoids dating because she doesn’t want to hurt people, have them feel embarrassed or distance themselves when they find out what happened to her.

“I believe that if Harvey Weinstein was not convicted by this jury, it would happen again and again and again,” Haleyi said.

The once-aspiring actress that Weinstein was convicted of raping in 2013 recalled the moment during the trial when she left the witness stand in tears and then could be heard screaming from an adjacent room.

“The day my screams were heard from the witness room was the day my voice came back to its full power,” she said.

“Rape is not just one moment of penetration. It is forever.”

She said she was a victim of “rape paralysis” caused by a physically imposing assailant “who had every advantage over me." Like many of Weinstein’s accusers, she said he used his Hollywood prestige to befriend her, dangling professional prospects to gain her trust.

“It takes a very special kind of evil to exploit connections to leverage rape,” she said.

The Associated Press has a policy of not naming people who have been sexually assaulted without their consent. It is withholding the rape accuser's name because it is not clear whether she wishes to be identified.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence at or near the maximum.

Weinstein, who has maintained that any sexual any sexual activity was consensual, said he had fond memories of his accusers.

Looking back during the trial at emails they exchanged, he said, he thought they had a good friendship: “I’m not going to say these aren’t great people. I had wonderful times with these people. I’m just genuinely confused. Men are confused about this issue.”

Weinstein’s lawyers are seeking the minimum sentence of five years in prison because of his age and frail health. Attorney Arthur Aidala told the court the ex-mogul was a “broken-down man.”

Weinstein, who turns 68 next week, used a walker throughout the trial following recent back surgeries and arrived in the courthouse Wednesday in a wheelchair. After his Feb. 24 conviction, he split time between a hospital and a jail infirmary unit, and had a stent inserted last week to unblock an artery.

Four other women who testified against him, including “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, sat side-by-side in the courtroom audience but weren't permitted to speak at his sentencing under state law.

One of those witnesses, Tarale Wulff, who accused Weinstein of raping her in 2005, said in a statement Tuesday that she hoped that the sentence “sends a clear message that times have changed.”

The executive behind such Oscar-winning films as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction” became Exhibit A for the #MeToo movement after years of whispers about his alleged behavior burst into public view in The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017.

More than 90 women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman, eventually came forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The takedown energized the #MeToo campaign of speaking up about sexual assault and holding perpetrators accountable.

One of Weinstein's lawyers, Donna Rotunno, told the court he faced an uphill fight from the start of the trial, with media coverage of his allegations and the #MeToo movement making it impossible for him to get a truly fair shake.

“How can we deny the fact that what happened before we walked in here had an impact?” Rotunno asked.

Weinstein was convicted on two counts: criminal sex act for the 2006 assault and rape in the third degree for the 2013 attack. He was acquitted of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault stemming from Sciorra’s allegations of a mid-1990s rape.

Newly unsealed documents show the 67-year-old former film producer sought help from billionaires Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg as sexual misconduct allegations against him piled up in October 2017, and that he considered issuing a statement at the time claiming that he was suicidal. There is no evidence to suggest either man responded.

After sentencing, Weinstein will be transferred to the state prison system.

Martin Horn, a former city corrections commissioner, said Weinstein’s celebrity status could make him a target for another inmate looking to make a name for himself, while the gravity of his convictions and sentence could raise suicide concerns.

“They're going to make sure that nothing happens to him while he's in their custody. Not because he's important, but just from a public relations point of view, it would be awfully embarrassing," said Horn, who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Just as jury selection was about to get under way in the New York case in January, Weinstein was charged in California with raping a woman at a Los Angeles hotel on Feb. 18, 2013 and sexually assaulting a woman in a Beverly Hills hotel suite the next night.

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On Twitter, follow Mike Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Tom Hays at twitter.com/aptomhays

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