Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison

Harvey Weinstein will be heading to prison after his sentencing hearing. The question before the judge is for how long. Harvey Weinstein, former co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., arrives at state supreme court in New York on Jan. 23, 2020.

Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday in a New York courtroom, the culmination of a case that fueled the global #MeToo movement that encouraged women to speak out against sexual abuse.

"I really feel remorse for this situation," the former Hollywood producer said, his voice barely audible, as he addressed the court before the sentence was handed down. "I feel it deeply in my heart. I will spend my time really caring and really trying to be a better person."

"I'm not going to say that these aren't great people," he also said of his accusers. "I've had wonderful times with these people."

Weinstein wore a blank face as he was taken out of the courtroom. His accusers cried together in the front row.

Weinstein, 67, arrived to his sentencing hearing in a wheelchair and handcuffs. He faced between five and 29 years for last month's convictions on first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape.

Judge James Burke sentenced Weinstein to 20 years in prison for first-degree criminal sex act and 3 years in prison for third-degree rape. The sentences will run consecutively and both come with 5 years of supervision after release.

The charges were based on testimony by Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, who both spoke at Wednesday's sentencing.

"If Harvey Weinstein had not been convicted by this jury, it would have happened again and again and again," Haley told the court. "I'm relieved he will now know he's not above the law. I'm relieved there are women out there who are safer because he's not out there."

Weinstein's statement came as a surprise

Weinstein's comments in court Wednesday were unexpected. In general, defendants planning to appeal a guilty verdict or who face other charges do not speak at sentencing because what they say can be used against them, according to Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who has worked in criminal defense.

Weinstein also said he believed the relationships with women who spoke out against him were consensual, specifically mentioning Mann. "I really, really was under that impression that I had that kind of relationship, five years with Jessica," he said.

Haley, Mann and the four other women who testified against Weinstein at his trial -- Mann, actress Annabella Sciorra and three "prior bad acts" witnesses -- arrived to court with prosecutors and sat in the front row. Actress Rosie Perez, who testified in support of Sciorra's claims, walked in with them and sat in the second row.

Weinstein was acquitted of two more serious charges of predatory sexual assault, which could have come with a life sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon on Wednesday asked Burke to sentence Weinstein to the maximum or near the maximum sentence, with the sentences served concurrently.

Defense attorneys have asked that he get the minimum possible sentence: five years. Anything more than that is "basically the death penalty," defense attorney Arthur Aidala said, citing Weinstein's health and age. He called him a "broken down man."

Weinstein has been in state custody since the verdict and has had several health issues. He had a heart procedure last week during which doctors inserted a stent, and on Sunday he fell while at Rikers Island jail, his publicist Juda Engelmayer told CNN.

Victims describe how Weinstein changed their lives

In court before the sentence was handed down, Haley broke down crying Wednesday during her victim impact statement as she described being assaulted by Weinstein.

"I believe that when he attacked me that evening with physical force, with no regard for my cries and protests, it scarred me deeply -- mentally and emotionally," Haley said.

Haley said the past two years have been excruciating, filled with paranoia and fear of retaliation daily. And while testifying against Weinstein was difficult, it did help Haley process what happened to her, she said.

Haley felt Weinstein showed a lack of remorse or acknowledgment for his crimes, she said, and she asked the judge to consider a sentence "long enough for Harvey Weinstein to acknowledge what he has done."

Mann minutes later asked Burke to impose the maximum sentence for rape in the third degree, with sentences served concurrently.

Mann wants the "gift" of knowing exactly where Weinstein is at all times, she said, adding she hopes he'll be rehabilitated in prison.

"Twelve people found Harvey unanimously guilty of raping me. That is not an easy task," she said.

Mann also referenced drug charges that she said carry longer sentence recommendations than third-degree rape.

"How am I not worth more than cocaine?" she said.

Weinstein also faces felony charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint in Los Angeles. Prosecutors say he raped one woman and sexually assaulted another in separate incidents over a two-day period in February 2013.

Weinstein has not yet turned himself in or been arraigned on the California charges.

He has denied all allegations of "nonconsensual sexual activity" related to the New York case and other claims made against him.

Defense asks for 5 years in prison

Illuzzi-Orbon on Wednesday referenced the submitted sentencing memo that she said detailed additional accounts of victims of Weinstein's abuse and show his lack of human empathy, selfishness, and a life rooted in criminality. One assistant told prosecutors Weinstein threatened to kill her and her entire family, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

The prosecutor also described the glamorous lifestyle Weinstein lived as a giant of the movie industry.

"He got drunk on the power," Illuzzi-Orbon said. "Young struggling dreamers were not real people to him."

Illuzzi-Orbon read a profile of Weinstein given to hotel employees in which they were cautioned, "Do not go near the car. Do not speak at him. Do not look at him. Stay away."

Illuzzi-Orbon thanked the six women who testified against Weinstein and thanked them for attending the sentencing hearing. She also thanked the news media for its coverage. And she thanked Burke, noting that the trial lasted a week longer than anticipated.

Illuzzi-Orbon also noted Weinstein's significant legal representation, saying she thought his defense team made every reasonable argument it should have and could have made on his behalf.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office argued in an 11-page court filing last week that Weinstein should receive a sentence that "reflects the seriousness of defendant's offenses." He led a "lifetime of abuse towards others, sexual and otherwise," prosecutors argued, and they highlighted three dozen uncharged incidents and accusations.

"Starting in the 1970s, he has trapped women into his exclusive control and assaulted or attempted to assault them," Illuzzi-Orbon wrote in a letter.

However, Weinstein's defense attorneys requested a five-year prison sentence, the minimum for his criminal sexual act conviction, according to a sentencing letter provided by his spokesman.

His attorneys wrote that Weinstein's personal charitable giving, advanced age, medical issues and lack of a criminal history should lead to a lower sentence. They wrote that his life "has been destroyed" since the publication of an article in The New Yorker in October 2017 that alleged systemic abuse of women in the entertainment industry.

"His wife divorced him, he was fired from The Weinstein Company, and in short, he lost everything," the attorneys wrote.

The attorneys also cited the "collateral consequences" he continues to face.

"Mr. Weinstein cannot walk outside without being heckled, he has lost his means to earn a living, simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media," according to the letter signed by attorneys Damon Cheronis, Donna Rotunno and Aidala.

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