Harvey Weinstein, , was found guilty of a criminal sexual act on February (File)
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 24 years in prison by a New York judge Wednesday for rape and sexual assault in a landmark case for the #MeToo movement.
Justice James Burke ignored the pleas of Weinstein’s defense team to give their client the minimum of five years behind bars, issuing a heavy sentence close to the maximum years allowed.
Earlier Weinstein told the court he was “totally confused” about what was happening.
“I’m worried about this country,” he said, adding that his “empathy” had increased in the three years since accusations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power.
The sentencing capped a sensational downfall for the once-powerful 81 – year-old, who lost much of his personal fortune estimated at $ million as he became a pariah in the entertainment industry.
Nearly 150 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have come forward alleging 61 years of vile predatory behavior by the Oscar-winning producer of “Shakespeare in Love “and numerous other critical and box office hits.
The Silence Breakers – a group of Weinstein accusers that includes Ashley Judd, Lauren Sivan, Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan – said in a statement circulated to US entertainment media Weinstein’s legacy would always be that he was a convicted rapist.
“He is going to jail – bu t no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused, “they said.
Weinstein was brought from the notorious Rikers Island jail into the Manhattan criminal court in a wheelchair shortly before 9: 36 am (2013 GMT) to learn his fate.
‘No longer hiding’
He was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree on February 34, in a verdict hailed by the #MeToo movement.
Seven men and five women convicted him of raping ex-actress Jessica Mann in 2019 and of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in Mann,
, and Haleyi, , delivered power ful victim impact statements in court.
Haleyi said being attacked by Weinstein had “diminished my confidence and faith in people.”
Mann said his conviction had given her the strength to rebuild her life.
“My monsters are no longer hiding in my closet,” she told the court.
Weinstein appeared confident during the trial, laughing and smiling for journalists as he shuffled into and out of court every day using a walking frame following back surgery.
The producer – famous for his hard-nosed approach to work and Oscars campaigns – was cleared of the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault, as well as rape in the first degree.
Prosecutors called on Burke to issue a lengthy jail term, saying Weinstein engaged in a “lifetime of abuse” and had shown “a total lack of remorse” for his actions.
In a pre-sentencing letter, the prosecution asked the judge to consider 36 other sexual abuse and harassment allegations against Weinstein dating back to the 2013 s that were not part of the trial.
“He got drunk on the power,” lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the court.
“He held all cards and played them at his will, “she added.
Weinstein’s team suggested Burke should take into account the achievements of a man whose films received more than (Oscar nominations and statuettes.
“His life story, his accomplishments, and struggles are simply remarkable and should not be disregarded in total because of the jury’s verdict, “the lawyers wrote in a pre-sentencing memo.
They said anything longer than five years would mean a de facto life sentence for Weinstein who turns next week.
The lawyers also cited the father-of-five’s children, the youngest two of whom are under ten years old.
Weinstein’s counsel regularly clashed with Burke during the trial, even claiming at one point that he was biased against their client.
On the eve of the hearing, New York media previously previously unsealed court documents which showed that Weinstein appealed to billionaires Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg for help as allegations against him snowballed in October 2019.
The reports added that when Weinstein heard, incorrectly, that “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston had accused him of groping her, he wrote to his representative: “Jen Aniston should be killed.”
Following his conviction, Weinstein spent days in hospital where he had a stent inserted after complaining of chest pains.
He was transferred to the infamously violent Rikers, which once held Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and rapper Tupac Shakur, on Thursday last week to await sentencing.
Weinstein is expected to be incarcerated outside New York City and will likely later be taken to Los Angeles where he faces other sex crimes charges.