NEW YORK | Harvey Weinstein pleaded for mercy and said he was “totally confused” by the sex crime case that got him sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison, capping the onetime Hollywood mogul’s #MeToo downfall.
His accusers — those who testified against him and many others who have spoken out elsewhere against the former Hollywood mogul — hailed the near-maximum punishment for his rape and criminal sex act convictions as long overdue.
Weinstein, 67, broke his courtroom silence to say he felt “remorse for this situation.” But he also argued that men are being accused of “things that none of us understood.”
“Thousands of men are losing due process. I’m worried about this country,” he said in a calm but creaking voice. “I’m totally confused. I think men are confused about these issues.”
Weinstein has been accused of violating scores of women. He was convicted last month of raping a once-aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on former TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006. He faced a maximum of 29 years in prison.
The conviction marked the first criminal fallout from a raft of allegations that the Oscar-winning movie producer used his clout to lure women, sexually assault or harass them and then silence them.
“Although this is a first conviction, this is not a first offense,” Judge James Burke said before revealing the prison sentence.
Both of the women Weinstein was convicted of assaulting told the court about the impact he had on their lives, and the empowerment they felt when testifying against him.
“Rape is not just one moment of penetration. It is forever,” said the 2013 rape accuser, who recalled a moment during the trial when she left the witness stand in tears and then could be heard screaming from an adjacent room.
It was, she said, “the day my voice came back to its full power,” she said.
Asked later about her reaction after the sentence, she wiped her eyes, raised her arm and nodded her head.
The Associated Press typically does not name people, without their consent, who say they were sexually assaulted. It is withholding the rape accuser’s name because it is not clear whether she wishes to be identified.
Haleyi broke down in tears as she told the court the 2006 attack scarred her deeply and “stripped me of my dignity as a woman.” The encounter made her rethink her career in the entertainment business and left her feeling afraid of retaliation, she said.
Weinstein, who has maintained that any sexual activity was consensual, showed no visible reaction to the sentence.
Beforehand, he gave a rambling speech that touched on his past charitable fund-raising, his filmmaking career and a pledge that his new “mission is to help people.” He said his “empathy has grown” since his downfall.
He said he had thought he had good friendships with Haleyi and the rape accuser, who exchanged warm emails with him after the alleged attacks.
The rape accuser testified that she maintained a flattering, friendly tone with Weinstein because she thought it safer not to be seen as threatening.
Years of whispers about Weinstein’s alleged behavior burst into public view in The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017. In the aftermath, more than 90 women, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek and other actresses, publicly accused Weinstein of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The takedown energized the #MeToo movement for speaking up about sexual assault.
Time’s Up, an organization created in the wake of #MeToo, on Wednesday hailed the women who testified against him for “the impact that they have had on our culture at large.”
Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno bristled at his sentence, saying the judge and jury had “caved” in a #MeToo and media atmosphere where Weinstein “really never had a fair shake from day one.”
“We were looking for fairness, and we didn’t get it,” Rotunno said.
Weinstein’s lawyers sought a five-year sentence — the shortest possible in the case — citing his age and frail health.
Weinstein used a walker throughout the trial and arrived at the courthouse Wednesday in wheelchair because of back problems from a car crash last summer. He has a condition that requires shots in his eyes and last week had a stent placed to unblock an artery.
Prosecutors said the man once celebrated as a titan of Hollywood deserved a harsh sentence that would account for decades of alleged wrongdoing.
The sentence “puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
Weinstein was convicted on two counts: criminal sex act and rape in the third degree. He was acquitted of the more serious charges against him of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault.
Now that Weinstein has been sentenced, his lawyers can move forward with a promised appeal. He also faces rape and sexual assault charges in California, where Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey tweeted Wednesday that her office was working on extraditing him. No arraignment date has yet been set.
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