Harvey Weinstein, a former Hollywood heavyweight who has come to symbolize the widespread culture of sexual misconduct by powerful men that led to the #MeToo movement, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Thursday for raping an actress in Los Angeles in 2013.
The sentence, which was added to the 23-year jail term Weinstein, 70, already has to serve after being found guilty of sexual assault in New York, increases the likelihood that the Oscar-winning ex-producer will serve out the remainder of his life behind bars.
Just before the judge handed down his sentence, Weinstein, who was dressed like a prisoner and was sitting in a wheelchair, begged the court for compassion while pleading his innocence. The two-hour trial took place in the same Los Angeles courthouse where Weinstein was convicted of rape, forced oral copulation, and sexual penetration by a foreign object by a jury in December.
The accusations resulted from an attack that happened in February 2013 at a hotel in Los Angeles on a former model and actress known in court as Jane Doe 1.
At the end of the hearing on Thursday, the woman spoke to the court while crying and shakily saying that she was “a very happy and confident woman” before Weinstein raped her. Then, “My identity was stolen. I was certain that no one could ever love me. I felt empty, lonely, and alone,” she continued, fighting back tears.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench gave Weinstein a 16-year jail sentence, which was much harsher than what Weinstein’s lawyers had asked for but less harsh than the maximum 24 years that the prosecution had asked for.
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Mark Werksman, Weinstein’s defence attorney, argued that rather than being three separate crimes, the three counts on which Weinstein was found guilty stemmed from “one continuing sexual assault” that took place in “one frenzied 10- to 15-minute ordeal.” Werksman asked that Weinstein not spend more than three years in prison for each of the three charges.
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Even though Weinstein kept denying that he had done anything wrong, his lawyers made a shocking admission of guilt in court.
Weinstein claimed in his statement to the court that he did not know Jane Doe 1 and that she had made up her account to get the money.
“This tale has been made up. Actress Jane Doe 1 is a. She may start crying, “The court heard from Weinstein. I beg you not to give me a life sentence.”
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Losing the Hollywood charm
That was the latest low point in a stunning fall from grace for the co-founder of Miramax Pictures, the hugely popular American production and distribution company that gave the world Shakespeare in Love and Pulp Fiction. The best film Oscar that year went to Shakespeare in Love, which was made by Weinstein, who also won the award.
The growing number of sexual misconduct charges sparked the #MeToo movement, which has inspired women to speak up about sexual assault and harassment by influential men in journalism, politics, and other fields, Weinstein. A culture of silence that has long enabled such behavior to go unquestioned is being broken by the campaign, which gained popularity on social media in 2017.
According to Weinstein, all of his sexual interactions were voluntary.
The sentence on Thursday, according to Jane Doe 1’s attorney David Ring, gave his client “closure and comfort, knowing Weinstein will spend the rest of his life in jail, where he belongs.”
The Los Angeles jury dismissed a second victim’s claims against Weinstein, while two further accusers’ charges were not resolved by a majority decision.
One of them, the now-wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom and documentary director Jennifer Siebel Newsom, revealed she was the alleged rape victim listed as Jane Doe 4 in court documents.
Lench called a mistrial on the unresolved charges. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has yet to decide whether to try Weinstein again on those counts.
Lawyers for the defendants said that the women freely had sex with Weinstein because they thought he would improve their careers, as part of what they called a pervasive “casting couch” mentality in the film business. They said the purported sexual interaction in two of the incidents was made up.
Before passing judgement, the court rejected a defence request to have Weinstein’s conviction overturned and a new trial ordered.
The New York verdict and jail term for Weinstein’s sexual misbehavior was upheld in February 2020, although he is still appealing. In July 2021, he was extradited from New York to California so he could stand trial in Los Angeles.