Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison, makes first public statement since his conviction of sex crimes

March 11, 2020

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company party in celebration of “Wind River” at Nikki Beach in Cannes, Frances, on May 20, 2017. (Photo by Dave Benett)

In a New York City courtroom on March 11, 2020, disgraced entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for a first-degree criminal sexual act and a third-degree rape. Weinstein was found guilty of these charges on February 24, 2020. On the same day of his conviction, he was found not guilty of three other charges, which were more serious: two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of first-degree rape involving two women (Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann) in separate incidents. The jury, consisting of seven men and five women, deliberated for nearly a week.

Weinstein’s prison sentence could have ranged from five years to 29 years. According to the Associated Press, Judge James Burke commented when delivering the 23-year sentence to Weinstein, who is 67: “Although this is a first conviction, this is not a first offense.” Weinstein, who did not testify during his trial, continues to deny all sexual-misconduct allegations against him.

After his sentencing, Weinstein gave his first public statement since he was convicted of these sex crimes. According to the Associated Press, Weinstein said, “To all the women who testified, we may have different truths, but I have great remorse for all of you … Thousands of men are losing due process. I’m worried about this country. I’m totally confused. I think men are confused about these issues.”

His attorneys are expected to appeal the conviction. His defense attorney Donna Rotunno commented after Weinstein’s prison sentence was delivered: “We were looking for fairness, and we didn’t get it.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said that Weinstein’s sentence “puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice.”

Weinstein is also facing sexual-assault charges in Los Angeles, where he is accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another woman on two consecutive nights during Oscars week in 2013. He is expected to be extradited to face trial in Los Angeles on those charges.

Weinstein was first arrested in May 2018, when he turned himself into the New York Police Department. He was arrested and charged with rape and forced oral sex. According to the Associated Press, the rape charge was for an unidentified woman who claims that Weinstein raped her at a New York hotel room in 2013. The oral sex charge was for a 2004 incident in which former aspiring actress Lucia Evans claims that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his New York office.

In October 2018, the charge involving Evans was dismissed. According to CNN, Evans’ attorney Carrie Goldberg implied that the charge was dropped for political reasons because of a “feud between the NYPD and the DA’s office.” Goldberg added that the dropped charge “does speak to a system desperate in need of reform.”

Weinstein’s conviction and imprisonment for sex crimes are considered landmarks for the #MeToo movement, which became a major cultural force in October 2017, when The New York Times and The New Yorker reported that Weinstein has a long history of sexual misconduct allegations, going back as far as the 1980s. The reports detailed how he silenced many of his alleged victims with financial settlements and non-disclosure agreements. In the years since those reports were published, more than 100 women have come forward to claim that Weinstein sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Weinstein continues to claim that any sex acts he committed were consensual.

After the reports were published, Weinstein was fired by The Weinstein Company (the entertainment firm that Harvey co-founded in 2005 with his brother Bob); Harvey’s second wife, Georgina Chapman, divorced him; and the company filed for bankruptcy. The Weinstein Company has since been purchased by investment group Lantern Entertainment.

In March 2019, Lantern and Gary Barber launched Spyglass Media Group, which will own the library previously owned by The Weinstein Company. Italian film distributor Eagle Pictures, cinema chain Cineworld (which own Regal Cinemas) and later AT&T’s Warner Bros. were brought in as minority holders. The library includes Oscar-winning movies “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Iron Lady,” as well as partial ownership of the fashion reality TV competition “Project Runway.”

Before co-founding The Weinstein Company, the Weinstein brothers co-founded Miramax Films in 1979. Miramax was the studio behind numerous Oscar-winning films, such as “My Left Foot,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “No Country for Old Men.” Miramax was sold to Disney in 1993, then to Filmyard Holdings in 2010, and then to the beIN Media Group in 2016. In 2019, beIN sold a 49% stake in Miramax to ViacomCBS.

Several industry organizations (including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) have expelled Harvey Weinstein from their membership, and he has been sued by several women for sexual harassment/sexual misconduct. Ashley Judd, one of his accusers, is also suing him for defamation because she claims Harvey Weinstein damaged her reputation and career after she rejected his sexual advances.

Since the accusations about Weinstein were made public, there have been several books, news stories and documentaries about his scandals. The most notable feature-length documentary so far about Weinstein is Hulu’s “Untouchable,” which began streaming in September 2019. The entertainment industry website Deadline reported in 2018 that Plan B (Brad Pitt’s production company) and Annapurna Pictures are planning a dramatic feature film about how The New York Times broke the Weinstein #MeToo story. The movie, if it’s made, will likely begin filming after all of Weinstein’s criminal cases have been resolved.

Harvey Weinstein’s downfall is widely considered to be the turning point of the #MeToo cultural movement, which has survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault publicly telling their stories and seeking justice. The #MeToo movement has also led to sexual misconduct allegations against many other famous and powerful men, often resulting in the accused losing their jobs and/or being sued. Harvey Weinstein now joins Bill Cosby as two of the once-powerful men in the entertainment industry who have been convicted of sexual assault since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement.

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