NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison after breaking his courtroom silence with a rambling plea for mercy in which he professed to be “totally confused” by the #MeToo movement that spelled the Hollywood producer’s downfall.
His accusers — those who testified against him and many others who have spoken out elsewhere against the former Hollywood mogul — hailed the near-maximum punishment for his rape and criminal sex act convictions as long overdue.
The 67-year-old Weinstein, who arrived at the courthouse Wednesday in a wheelchair and used a walker throughout the trial after recent back surgeries, could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
He was convicted last month of raping a once-aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on former TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006. He faced a minimum of five years and a maximum of 29 years in prison.
The conviction marked the first criminal fallout from a raft of allegations that the Oscar-winning movie producer used his clout to lure women, sexually assault or harass them and then silence them.
“Although this is a first conviction, this is not a first offense,” Judge James Burke said in imposing the sentence.
Weinstein, who did not testify during the trial, addressed his accusers, saying, “To all the women who testified, we may have different truths, but I have great remorse for all of you.” But he also argued that men are being accused of “things that none of us understood.”
“Thousands of men are losing due process. I’m worried about this country,” he said in a calm but creaking voice. “I’m totally confused. I think men are confused about these issues.”
Both of the women Weinstein was convicted of assaulting told the court about the damage he did to them, and the empowerment they felt when testifying against him.
“Rape is not just one moment of penetration. It is forever,” said the 2013 rape accuser, who recalled a moment during the trial when she left the witness stand in tears and then could be heard screaming from an adjacent room.
It was, she said, “the day my voice came back to its full power,” she said.
Asked later about her reaction after the sentence, she wiped her eyes, raised her arm and nodded her head.