Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes including rape.
Judge James Burke handed down the sentence to the former Hollywood heavyweight on Wednesday morning, after the women he has been convicted of abusing gave emotional statements to the courtroom.
Miriam Haley, who alleged that Weinstein forced oral sex on her while she worked as a production assistant in 2006, told the court that he “stripped me of my dignity as a human being”. She said she was “relieved there are women who are safer because he is not out there”.
Weinstein faced a minimum of five years in prison after being convicted of criminal sexual assault last month in a decision that was viewed as a landmark legal test of the #MeToo movement — which was ignited three years ago by allegations against the disgraced movie producer.
Weinstein was brought by wheelchair into the courtroom, where he faced the six women who had testified against him, who were sitting together in the front row. He broke his silence in court, speaking for about 10 minutes about how he was “totally confused”, and mentioning his contributions to charity after Hurricane Sandy and the September 11 attacks.
The six women accusers — including Ms Haley, Jessica Mann and Sopranos actor Annabella Sciorra — gripped each other in tears as they left the courtroom alongside New York prosecutors. Spectators in the hallway cheered and clapped, shouting “justice”.
The 67-year old has been detained at New York’s Rikers Island jail since undergoing heart surgery last week. Judge Burke revoked bail after the jury verdict at trial and Weinstein has been in custody pending his sentencing.
“Although this is the first conviction, it is not the first offence,” Judge Burke said in his sentencing remarks.
Weinstein denied the charges and his lawyers have indicated they will appeal. Speaking to reporters outside the court on Wednesday, lead defence attorney Donna Rottuno said the sentence was “absurd”.
The high-profile case encompassed five charges against Weinstein based on two alleged incidents: raping Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress, in 2013 and forcing oral sex on Ms Haley, a production assistant, in 2006.
After watching weeks of dramatic testimony by women alleging that Weinstein preyed upon them, the jury last month determined that he was guilty of two of the five felony charges. They found him guilty of a first-degree criminal sexual act, which rested upon the testimony of Ms Haley, and third-degree rape charges in connection with the allegations from Ms Mann.
The jury acquitted Weinstein of the most serious charges against him, predatory sexual assault, which carried a sentence of up to life in prison.
Weinstein’s lawyers had argued that, at his age, a sentence longer than the minimum 5 years would likely be a “de facto life sentence”. In a letter submitted to Judge Burke this week, his defence team begged for mercy, claiming that Weinstein has already suffered a “historic” fall from grace and “cannot walk outside without being heckled”.
The prosecutors asked Judge Burke to consider dozens of other “bad acts” Weinstein was accused of carrying out over the span of four decades, requesting the maximum sentence, or near the maximum, of 29 years in prison.
Weinstein was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the criminal sexual act felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and 3 years for the third-degree rape conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of 4 years.