NEW YORK – The once-powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday for sexually assaulting two women.
In its landmark verdict on Feb. 24, a jury found that Weinstein forced oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, now 42, at his apartment in 2006 and raped onetime aspiring actress Jessica Mann, now 34, at a DoubleTree hotel in 2013.
Both of the women attended the sentencing to read impact statements to the judge in front of a packed courtroom.
“This incident with Harvey Weinstein altered the course of my life,” Haleyi said, adding, “I’m relieved that there are women out there who are safer because he’s not out there.”
She choked up while discussing the torture of testifying: “I showed up not as a perfect victim but as a human being.”
She added that her life has been in shambles since deciding to come forward and exposing herself to scrutiny, and feared Weinstein’s retribution. “I had panic attacks and nightmares. I feared for my life.”
Mann focused on why she did not physically resist Weinstein, telling the judge it was a common response for a rape victim. She said the producer “had every advantage over me, given the immense physical stature of Harvey Weinstein’s height and weight and ox-like strength.”
She also addressed the discovery of Weinstein’s many nondisclosure agreements with accusers of sexual misconduct, and the people in his world who knew about them. “My rape was preventable. This was a known offender.”
At one point, Weinstein spoke from a wheelchair at the defense table, comparing the #MeToo movement to McCarthyism while playing down his clout in Hollywood and touting his charitable work.
His speech gradually became more rambling, as he argued, “I had no great powers in this industry. Miramax at the height of its fame was a smaller company,” referring to the production company he helmed, which released films such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” and was eventually purchased by Disney. Regarding the charge from many of his accusers that he threatened to derail their careers if they spoke out: “I couldn’t blackball anybody, because if I said don’t use that actress … Warner Brothers would have said I’m going to use them just to spite” him.
He said that he has not seen his three oldest children since October 2017, when the New Yorker and New York Times published its initial set of sexual misconduct allegations against him. “I have no idea what they’re doing and I have no communication with them. That for me is hell on earth.”
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon argued for the maximum sentence of 29 years, saying Weinstein lived “a life rooted in criminality, criminality that has gone unchecked for decades.” The minimum sentence was five years.
All six Weinstein accusers who testified against him at the trial sat beside each other in the front row, near Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Weinstein, 67, still faces charges in Los Angeles for alleged assaults on an Italian actress, whose name has never been disclosed, and Lauren Marie Young, 30, one of three accusers who testified at his Manhattan trial as supporting witnesses. Young has alleged that Weinstein trapped her in a Beverly Hills hotel suite bathroom in February 2013 and masturbated while groping her.
Since the initial accusations against Weinstein, numerous other women have made allegations of sexual misconduct against him and other powerful men. Weinstein’s trial was hailed by advocates as a step forward for sexual assault survivors, especially given that Mann and Haleyi continued their relationship with Weinstein after the incidents – and such scenarios were previously considered very difficult to prosecute.
At the February trial, jurors found Weinstein not guilty of the counts of predatory sexual assault, which would have acknowledged actress Annabella Sciorra’s allegation that he raped her in her apartment in late 1993 or early 1994.
On Friday, Illuzzi-Orbon stated in a memo to the judge that it is “totally appropriate in this case to communicate to a wider audience that sexual assault, even if perpetrated upon an acquaintance or in a professional setting, is a serious offense worthy of a lengthy prison sentence.”
Illuzzi-Orbon cited three dozen allegations of sex crimes and other forms of abuse dating to the 1970s, which she argued “establish that throughout his entire adult professional life, defendant has displayed a staggering lack of empathy, treating others with disdain and inhumanity.”
Weinstein’s attorneys, meanwhile, argued for the minimum sentence of five years, saying he has already been subject to enough suffering. “Mr. Weinstein cannot walk outside without being heckled, he has lost his means to earn a living, simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media,” his team of Damon Cheronis, Donna Rotunno and Arthur Aidala wrote in a letter to Justice James Burke on Monday.
At the trial, Weinstein was shamed by witnesses’ accounts of what they described as his abhorrent hygiene and deformed genitalia, the attorneys said. “Deserved or not, this is certainly a unique and extremely severe consequences that Mr. Weinstein had to endure, and in the age of social media and given his fame, virtually unrivaled when compared to any other defendant in the state of New York or nationally.”
Weinstein was free on a $2 million bail bond during the trial but had his bail revoked after the guilty verdict. At that point, he had spent no more than a few hours in custody for processing since his arrest in May 2018.
His spokesman said that after the verdict, he was taken to Bellevue Hospital jail ward and had heart surgery to have a stent implanted before he was taken to the Rikers Island jail complex. His team has alluded to various other health conditions, and he attended his trial with the aid of a walker, which was attributed to his back surgery weeks before the proceeding, though it was criticized by many as a stunt to elicit sympathy.
In their memo to the judge, the attorneys said, “Given his age and specific medical risk factors, any additional term of imprisonment above the mandatory minimum – although the grave reality is that Mr. Weinstein may not even outlive that term – is likely to constitute a de facto life sentence.”