Two years after dozens of women bravely came forward with accusations of sexual assault and rape against Harvey Weinstein, he was sentenced today to 23 years in prison.
Jurors in his Manhattan trial found him guilty last month of a felony sex crime and rape but acquitted him of predatory sexual assault, the top two charges against him.
The disgraced Hollywood mogul was accused of misconduct by over 80 women after the The New York Times and The New Yorker published explosive reports detailing decades of sexual harassment, assault, and rape allegations. The stories ignited the #MeToo movement to expose powerful, predatory men, and led to the formation of the advocacy group Time's Up. In Manhattan, Weinstein faced five felony charges based on claims by two women. He pleaded not guilty and denied any non-consensual sex.
According to Variety, Weinstein was found guilty of criminal sexual act and third-degree rape after six women testified that he sexually assaulted them. He was acquitted of other charges. Jurors were deadlocked on two counts of predatory sexual assault, the most serious against him, three days after beginning deliberations. Judge James Burke reportedly instructed jurors to come to a unanimous decision on those two counts so that deliberations could continue.
Here's everything you need to know about the case.
The trial took place in New York.
At the New York State Supreme Court. For this particular trial, Weinstein was charged with five counts of predatory sex acts, rape, and criminal sex acts.
"Dear Harvey, today Lady Justice is staring down a super predator. You."— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 6, 2020
Actress Rose McGowan and other Harvey Weinstein accusers give powerful statements outside a New York City courthouse before the start of his rape and sexual assault trial pic.twitter.com/WK5cX7OgBn
Several 'silence breakers' spoke outside the courthouse
They included Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette, who showed up to support fellow accusers.
“You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many,” McGowan said. “You have only yourself to blame.”
“Time’s up on sexual harassment in all workplaces,” Arquette said. “Time’s up on empty apologies without consequences, and time’s up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein.”
Dozens of other women dressed in all black gathered outside the courthouse, loudly chanting anti-assault anthems inspired by this Chilean feminist collective. "The rapist is you," the protestors said. "It's not my fault, not where I was, not how I dress." The women wore matching black lace blindfolds, and shuffled from side-to-side in perfect synchronization. The group disrupted trial proceedings causing “a commotion so loud that it could be heard in a 15th-floor courtroom,” according to the Associated Press. One participant, Equality Now human rights attorney and sexual assault survivor Kate Kelly, told ELLE.com she felt a "sense of community with everyone [there]. I felt more powerful and less alone. It was euphoric."
Read more about the powerful performance protest piece, here.
Weinstein arrived at the courthouse with a walker
He was photographed hobbling into court using a grey walker and surrounded by an army of lawyers. Weinstein also reportedly walked to the front of the courtroom to say his name before the proceedings began, which he did "almost exaggeratedly hunched over," according to USA Today. Weinstein reportedly underwent a three-hour operation on his back, his representative told Page Six. However, the tabloid also published photos of the disgraced movie mogul without a walker at a Target, "striding around without any support whatsoever."
According to a New York Times report, Weinstein feels "anxious — even petrified — about losing his freedom." He reportedly told the newspaper that he's "found a spiritual connection I never had" and "in that, I have experienced the power of being vulnerable.” A friend of Weinstein told the Times: "He doesn’t get it. He thinks he’s the victim. He doesn’t blame himself for anything.”
Weinstein's defense hinged, in part, on portraying his accusers as consenting participants
His trial started with a hearing that lasted 80 minutes so that the judge set the terms of the trial to come. That was followed by two weeks of jury selection and then eight weeks of arguments, testimony, and deliberations.
Weinstein's defense team called expert witnesses to testify about debunked sexual violence tropes like the “false memory theory” and what an "authentic" reaction to rape should look like. ELLE.com spoke with psychologists Dr. Anne DePrince, a psychology professor at the University of Denver whose research focuses on the consequences of violence against women and children, about the pervasive sexual assault myths raised in the trail.
"The central details, that is, the details that a survivor's brain is focused on during trauma, tend to be remembered well," DePrince told ELLE.com. "The details that the brain was not focused on may not have been encoded into memory at all or, if they were encoded, may not be remembered well or may fade over time. When survivors describe remembering what happened to them very vividly, their reports are in line with research on human memory. For example, events that evoked emotions tend to be more vividly remembered than events that didn’t evoke emotions."
Read more about why rape myths are harmful for survivors here.
According to The New York Times, prosecutors called female witnesses to "show a pattern of misconduct," but that "most of the other allegations against Mr. Weinstein dated too far back to be prosecuted, fell outside New York’s jurisdiction or involved abusive behavior that was not criminal. Other accusers were unwilling to participate, convinced the personal toll would be too great."
The trial centered on graphic and extremely emotional testimony from Weinstein's accusers, many of whom recounted how he lured them back to hotel rooms with promises to advance their careers.
Dawn Dunning, a former actress and one of six women who testified that Harvey Weinstein raped or sexually assaulted them, took the stand on January 29 to describe how he attacked her in a hotel room 15 years ago. Weinstein was not charged with assaulting Dunning, but prosecutors used her testimony to establish a pattern of abuse. She told ELLE.com: "I hope in the end that it will be easier for victims to come forward and for sexual assault to be reported and prosecuted. In industries where abuse of power is so prevalent—the nightlife business, the modeling world, and in Hollywood—I hope his conviction will make predators stop and think twice before acting or doing or saying something harmful."
Read Dunning's full account of what it was like to testify against Weinstein here.
Who was the prosecutor?
Manhattan assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon. According to The Hollywood Reporter, DA Office spokesman Danny Frost described her in 2018 as "one of the finest trial lawyers in the nation, with unparalleled expertise in high-profile cold cases." She is most famous for securing a conviction in the murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz after he was kidnapped on his way to school.
According to THR, Illuzzi-Orbon has prosecuted several other celebrities, including Lil Wayne:
In 2007, she prosecuted Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter Jr. and Jeffrey "Ja Rule" Atkins on weapons charges — both were represented by Manhattan defense attorney Stacey Richman and took plea deals. Because of the fact-specific nature of criminal law, Richman says the prosecutor’s past work doesn’t hint at her coming strategy — but it does show her passion. "She calls herself a soldier in the army of the District Attorney’s Office," says Richman. "She is a true believer and seeks to serve what she perceives is just."
The jury was deadlocked on two charges.
Jurors were instructed to reach a unanimous decision or else they couldn't "return a verdict on the two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison," according to NBC News. The outlet also reported that New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke told the courtroom: "It is not uncommon for a jury to believe they will never reach a unanimous verdict but on further deliberation, they are often able to reach a unanimous verdict."
Weinstein was found guilty on two counts.
He was reportedly found guilty of a felony sex crime and rape, but acquitted of the two most serious charges against him, which were predatory sexual assault.
Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
He arrived in a wheelchair and handcuffs to court Wednesday morning, according to CBS, where the judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison for a first-degree criminal sex act and three years in prison for third-degree rape. The sentences will run consecutively, with five years of supervision after his release.
According to USA Today, Weinstein addressed the survivors before the sentence was handed down: “I feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deep in my heart. I’m really trying to be a better person."
Time's Up President Tina Tchen said in a statement about the sentencing: "The trauma of sexual assault and harassment is lifelong—we can only hope that today’s sentence brings all of the survivors of Harvey Weinstein some measure of peace. We also hope that these women take pride in knowing the impact they have had on our culture at large. Whether by inspiring more survivors to come forward and seek help, changing how the justice system responds to sexual violence, or leading corporate boards to hold more CEOs accountable for toxic workplace culture, the social change catalyzed by these survivors has been nothing short of transformational."
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