Harvey Weinstein has received his prison sentence for multiple accusations of sexual abuse on Wednesday. The 67 year old former showbusiness professional will be incarcerated for 23 years on felony charges for first degree criminal sex acts and third degree rape. He arrived in a wheelchair and handcuffs to the hearing, where the range of possible sentences was between 5 and 29 years based on the convictions from a month earlier. The judge handed down 20 years on the first degree charge and 3 years on the third degree charge to run consecutively. He is also subject to an additional five years of supervised release if he lives long enough to complete the sentence.
During the sentencing hearing, Weinstein said that he felt remorse and that he would try to spend the rest of his life being a better person. His accusers in the courtroom were brought to tears at the time of his statement and as he was escorted away. Weinstein was also charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault, which were the most serious of all and carry a life sentence, but he was ultimately acquitted on these counts.
Two of his victims had spoken earlier at the hearing. They mentioned how Weinstein and others like him are not above the law, and how his freedom also represents danger to other women. One of the women also gave a moving account of the physical force that was used to overcome her at the time and the continued emotional impact his actions will have for the rest of her life.
The statement and possible admission from Weinstein came as a surprise, as defense attorneys generally advise their clients to remain silent for the purposes of the appellate process. Weinstein had also maintained that he believed he had a consensual relationship with one of the victims for several years. In addition to the victims, several other character witnesses had testified about their experience with Weinstein’s prior bad acts, which formed a pattern of dangerous behavior.
The assistant district attorney had asked the judge for maximum sentences on all of the convictions, to run concurrently. Because of Weinstein’s age and health, his defense asked for the minimum sentence due to his physical condition. They mentioned that the next years in jail will essentially function as a death sentence due to the very real possibility that he will not live to see the end of his prison time. Within the last week, Weinstein needed surgery to place a stint in his heart and he also took a serious fall at Rikers Island.
The legacy of Weinstein
The accusations against Weinstein are considered to be the main reason for the #MeToo movement, which sparked a global discussion about men in positions of power abusing their authority by assaulting and sexually harassing women. Weinstein went from a respected producer to a criminal within a short time after the accusations began to emerge, and public perception of him changed rapidly afterward.
The criminal charges against him were serious, as crimes for rape and sexual assault are felonies that can carry decades of jail time in every U.S. jurisdiction. There are still pending state charges in California against Weinstein for sexual battery and forcible rape from a different incident.