March 16, 2020

USA: Disgraced Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein Who Meryl Streep Famously Called "God." Was Sentenced To 23 Years In Prison By A New York Judge For Rape And Sexual Assault In A Landmark Case.

Yahoo News
written by Thomas Urbain, AFP staff
Wednesday March 11, 2020

New York - Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault Wednesday, capping a sensational downfall for the once-powerful producer in a landmark case for the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, who turns 68 next week, faces spending the rest of his life behind bars after New York Justice James Burke rebuffed his pleas for the minimum five-year sentence.

The judge, issuing a heavy term close to the maximum 29 years allowed, was unmoved by a rambling statement Weinstein made to the court in which he failed to express any remorse for his actions or apologize to victims.

"I'm totally confused," Weinstein said, before blaming the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power for his predicament.

"I was the first example and now there are thousands of men being accused. I'm worried about this country," he added.

The sentencing completed a dramatic fall from grace for the titan-turned-pariah, who lost much of his $150 million fortune fighting allegations that surfaced in October 2017.

Nearly 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have come forward alleging 40 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 24 Weinstein accusers that includes Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan -- said Weinstein's legacy would always be his rape conviction.

"He is going to jail -- but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused," they said in a statement.

Weinstein was taken away from the Manhattan criminal court in a wheelchair as the six accusers who testified at his trial, including actress Annabella Sciorra of "The Sopranos," hugged in the front row.

Members of the public clapped as the accusers and prosecutors walked out of the courtroom.

- 'No longer hiding' -

Weinstein was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree on February 24. His lawyers have appealed.

Seven men and five women convicted him of raping ex-actress Jessica Mann in 2013 and of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.

Mann, 34, and Haleyi, 42, delivered powerful victim impact statements Wednesday.

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.

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.

But 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 1970s that were not part of the trial.

"He held all cards and played them at his will," lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court.

Weinstein's team suggested Burke should take into account the achievements of a man whose films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 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.

Weinstein also pleaded with Burke that he may never see his five children again, 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 notice' -

Afterwards, lead attorney Donna Rotunno suggested the intense media coverage of the trial had meant the judge "probably felt a type of pressure" to send a message.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr thanked the court for putting "sexual predators on notice" and praised his accusers "indescribable courage" throughout the case.

"Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars, and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world," he said in a statement.

Outside court, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents Sciorra and Haleyi, gleefully held up a sign that read "20 + 3 years," the sentences Weinstein received for each count.

Tarale Wulff, who testified that Weinstein raped her when she was a cocktail waitress, expressed joy that the sentence was more than she expected.

"For the first time I can say I feel a sense of happiness," Wulff told reporters.

Weinstein is expected to be incarcerated outside New York City.

Shortly after his sentencing, prosecutors in Los Angeles said they had "begun the process of extraditing" Weinstein to the Californian city where he faces further sex crimes charges.
Yahoo News
written by Peter Hutchison, AFP staff
Wednesday March 11, 2020

New York - For decades, Harvey Weinstein was untouchable, reigning over Hollywood as the mega-producer Meryl Streep famously called "God." On Wednesday the convicted rapist was contemplating spending the rest of his life in prison.

A week before his 68th birthday, the "Pulp Fiction" producer with a knack for making Oscar-winning movies was sentenced to 23 years in jail for rape and sexual assault.

The sentencing in New York capped a sensational downfall for Weinstein, almost three years after allegations against him ignited the #MeToo movement, made him a pariah and ended his career.

Nearly 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have come forward alleging 40 years of vile predatory behavior by Weinstein.

The accusations, first made in The New York Times and New Yorker in October 2017, sparked a sexual harassment watershed that ended the careers of several powerful men as tens of thousands of women shared their stories of abuse online under the #MeToo hashtag.

Once the darling of film festivals such as Cannes and Sundance, Weinstein was quickly expelled from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, the institution that awards the Oscars.

The one-time Democratic Party donor, who hobnobbed with Hillary Clinton, disappeared from public life, surfacing occasionally from reported sex addiction treatment, his name toxic and his reputation in tatters.

- 81 Oscars -

Then on May 25, 2018, he was charged with predatory sexual assault. Images of him handcuffed were beamed around the world.

Weinstein maintains that all his sexual relationships were consensual but he was convicted of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and of raping ex-actress Jessica Mann in 2013.

On February 24, he was found guilty of rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree, but cleared of the most serious charge of predatory sexual assault.

Weinstein, in a wheelchair following heart surgery and considerably lighter than the 300 pounds (136 kilograms) he carried at the height of his success, came across as unrepentant when he addressed the court at his sentencing.

"I'm totally confused," he said, suggesting he was a victim of the #MeToo movement.

"I was the first example and now there are of thousands of men being accused. I'm worried about this country."

He also pleaded with the judge that he "might never see my children again."

- 'Scissorhands' -

Born in Queens, New York, on March 19, 1952, the son of a diamond cutter, Weinstein studied at Buffalo University and initially produced rock concerts until he and younger brother Bob went into the movie business.

They co-founded Miramax Films, a small distribution company named after his mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979.

Their hits included 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar. The company was sold to Disney in 1993 and the brothers left in 2005 to start up The Weinstein Company.

Over the years, Weinstein's films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes.

The movies he steered to Academy Awards glory include "The Artist," "The King's Speech" and "The Iron Lady" -- which won best actress for Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Through it all, the burly executive was famous for his hard-nosed approach to work and Oscars campaigns. He was nicknamed "Harvey Scissorhands" for his aggressive editing of movies.

Weinstein once had a personal fortune estimated at $150 million but it has rapidly disappeared following his fall from grace.

The Weinstein Company was declared bankrupt in March 2018 under an avalanche of lawsuits related to sexual misconduct claims.

In December last year, Weinstein reached a $25 million settlement with more than 30 actresses and former employees who sued him. The bill will be met by insurers and his former company.

Prosecutors say Weinstein has sold five properties totaling $60 million in the last two years to pay legal fees and support his two ex-wives.

The second, English fashion designer Georgina Chapman, divorced him following the scandal.

He was living in relative obscurity in a rented home in a New York suburb close to the two young children he has with Chapman before his trial started in January.

Weinstein spent ten days in hospital following his conviction after complaining of chest pains. He had a stent installed before being transferred to New York's notorious Rikers Island jail to await sentencing.

Weinstein is expected to be incarcerated in upstate New York. But his story may not be over: he has appealed and is facing a separate case in Los Angeles.

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