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Courtroom dispatch: Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes

Harvey Weinstein watches as Jessica Mann makes a statement during the sentencing following his conviction on sexual assault and rape charges in New York City, New York, USA, March 11, 2020, in this courtroom sketch.
Harvey Weinstein watches as Jessica Mann makes a statement during the sentencing following his conviction on sexual assault and rape charges in New York City, New York, USA, March 11, 2020, in this courtroom sketch. © Jane Rosenberg, REUTERS

Former Hollywood power broker Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday following his sexual assault and rape conviction two weeks ago. 

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Weinstein, who turns 68 next week, will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

There were gasps in the New York courtroom after Judge James Burke, who presided over the trial, delivered the sentence.

First the judge reminded Weinstein he would have to register as a sex offender. Then he handed him close to the maximum sentence available – 20 years for a first-degree criminal sexual assault and three years for third-degree rape to run consecutively. 

The six women who testified against him – Miriam Haley, Jessica Mann, Annabella Sciorra, Tarale Wulff, Dawn Dunning, and Lauren Young – were sitting in the front row of the courtroom, a sisterhood of solidarity. Several of them let out sobs of relief upon hearing the sentence. 

Weinstein, who has been suffering from health problems, was handcuffed to his wheelchair and rolled out of the courtroom. He was taken to Rikers Island jail but shortly thereafter he was transferred again to Bellevue Hospital after complaining of chest pains. 

Weinstein's lawyers said they will appeal the sentence.

Children's drawings on the wall

It came after the verdict, delivered on February 24, by a 12-person jury that found him guilty of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006 and raping former aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013, but not guilty of the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault. 

During her court testimony about the attack, Haley had described harrowing details like the children’s drawings on the wall of the bedroom in Weinstein’s Manhattan apartment where he abused her.

Both Haley and Mann addressed the court on Wednesday ahead of the sentencing.

Haley said that Weinstein had crushed a part of her spirit: "If he was not convicted of rape and sexual assault by this jury, it would have happened again and again."

The former production assistant began to cry as she described how "excruciatingly stressful" the whole experience of testifying had been for her. She said Weinstein had stripped her of her dignity as a human being and as a woman. She described her trauma, saying, "It scarred me deeply, mentally and emotionally, perhaps irreparably, perhaps forever."

Jessica Mann, who was wearing a jumper that said ‘Give me love’, spoke at times in a shaky voice. She described the suffering of a rape victim: "Rape is not just one moment of penetration – it is forever." 

"It is time people who rape other people pay with their life and the life they took," Mann told the court. "I have found my voice and I hope for a future where monsters no longer hide in our closet."

Weinstein spoke for first time

Weinstein, who opted not to testify during his sexual assault trial, addressed the judge ahead of his sentencing in a low and sometimes unintelligible voice. This came as a surprise as it was the first time he had spoken out loud in the courtroom over the course of the entire trial. He said he felt “remorse for this situation” but at no point in his rambling monologue did he actually apologise to his victims. 

This sense of regret rather, it transpired, was mainly for the other "thousands of men" who he said were losing due process. Men who are also accused and could perhaps be convicted of sex crimes. "I’m totally confused," he said. "I think men are confused about these issues."

Mann’s case was complicated because she had maintained a years' long relationship with Weinstein that included consensual oral sex. But the jurors agreed Mann had not consented to sex at the DoubleTree Hotel in March 2013. They decided however that what had happened was not first-degree rape, because no force had been used.

There are three types of rape under New York law. Rape in the third degree is when an abuser engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent. 

LA sexual assault charges to come

As the women who testified against Weinstein left the courtroom on Wednesday, reporters and members of the public in the corridor outside applauded them. 

Jessica Mann looked overwhelmed with emotion as she walked down the hallway smiling with tears in her eyes, clutching the hand of Lauren Young – another of Weinstein’s accusers. 

Young’s allegation that Weinstein sexually assaulted her at a Beverly Hills hotel is the basis for one of the criminal charges brought by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.

Just hours after the sentencing in Manhattan, prosecutors in Los Angeles said that they have started the process of extraditing Weinstein to California to face sexual assault charges that were filed in January.

More than 100 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct stretching back decades. Accusations against him sparked the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment. 

Following Weinstein’s sentencing on Wednesday the Silence Breakers – a group of 24 women, who say they were abused by the former producer – released a statement saying that "no amount of jail time will repair the lives he (Weinstein) ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused." 

They added that the would continue their "crusade for cultural change, justice and to have our voices heard".

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