‘A new day’: Harvey Weinstein convicted, led away in cuffs
NEW YORK (AP) — Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault against two women and led off to prison in handcuffs Monday in what his foes hailed as a landmark moment for the legal system and a long-overdue reckoning for the man vilified as the biggest monster of the #MeToo era.
The 67-year-old Weinstein had a look of resignation on his face as he heard the verdict: guilty on two charges, not guilty on a set of more serious ones.
While it was not the across-the-board victory prosecutors and his accusers had hoped for, it could put the stooped and feeble-looking Weinstein behind bars for the rest of his life. The charges carry up to 29 years in prison.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. saluted the women who came forward against the once-feared studio boss, saying they “changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence” and “pulled our justice system into the 21st century.”
“This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and it is a new day. It is a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed,” Vance said.
Weinstein’s lawyers said they will appeal.
“Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man,” defense attorney Donna Rotunno said. “He knows that we will continue to fight for him, and we know that this is not over.” Another of his lawyers, Arthur Aidala, quoted Weinstein as telling as his legal team:: “I’m innocent. I’m innocent. I’m innocent. How could this happen in America?”
The jury of seven men and five women took five days to find Weinstein guilty of raping an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006 by forcibly performing oral sex on her.
He was acquitted on the most serious charges, two counts of predatory sexual assault, each carrying up to life in prison. Both of those counts hinged on the testimony of “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein barged into her apartment, raped her and forcibly performed oral sex on her in the mid-1990s.
Judge James Burke ordered Weinstein taken to jail immediately. Court officers handcuffed Weinstein and put their arms under his, leading him unsteadily out of the courtroom via a side door without the use of the walker he relied on for much of the trial. He was later taken from the courthouse in an ambulance, strapped to a stretcher in his suit, in what was believed to be just a precautionary measure.
The judge said he will ask that Weinstein, who had been free on bail since his arrest nearly two years ago, be held in the infirmary after his lawyers said he needs medical attention following unsuccessful back surgery.
Sentencing was set for March 11. The sexual assault charge carries up to 25 years in prison, while the third-degree rape count is punishable by up to four years. (The jury acquitted Weinstein of first-degree rape, which requires the use of force or the threat of it, and found him guilty of third-degree rape, which involves a lack of consent.)
The verdict followed weeks of often harrowing and excruciatingly graphic testimony from a string of accusers who told of rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and excuses from Weinstein about how the Hollywood casting couch works. In addition to the three women he was charged with attacking, three more who said they were attacked by Weinstein testified in an effort by prosecutors to show a pattern of brutish behavior.
Whispers about Weinstein circulated in Hollywood for years before they finally turned into a torrent of accusations in 2017 that destroyed his career and gave rise to #MeToo, the global movement to encourage women to come forward and hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.
The trial was the first criminal case to arise from the barrage of allegations against Weinstein from more than 90 women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Uma Thurman and Mira Sorvino. Most of those cases were too old to prosecute.
While prosecutors and other Weinstein foes were disappointed by his acquittal on the most serious charges, they exulted over the guilty verdicts.
“The era of impunity for powerful men who rape people is over,” Sorvino said, breaking down in tears on a conference call of Weinstein’s former accusers. “He will rot in jail as he deserves.”