Harvey Weinstein, the once powerful movie producer, ruled Hollywood for decades, making and breaking careers, racking up Oscars and reshaping the film industry. But on Wednesday, after years of private complaints about his abuse of women burst into public scandal, he was sentenced in a Manhattan courtroom to 23 years in prison for raping one woman and sexually assaulting another.
The startling sentence meant that Weinstein, who is 67 and in poor health, might spend the rest of his life in prison. Just before the sentencing, Weinstein, who was sitting in a wheelchair, told the court that he was remorseful, but also “totally confused” about what had happened to him.
The sentence marked a significant milestone in the #MeToo movement, which ignited after several women openly accused Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment. Women around the globe shifted the cultural landscape as they began to speak about mistreatment at the hands of powerful men.
Justice James A. Burke, who presided over the trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, could have sentenced Weinstein to as little as five years, but he heeded the arguments of prosecutors who urged him to hand down a long sentence.
Justice Burke gave Weinstein 20 years for the felony attack on one woman and an additional three years for the rape of another, an aspiring actress who testified he had forced himself on her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
Six women had given graphic accounts on the witness stand of Weinstein’s sexual assaults, and they all entered the courtroom together on Wednesday, sitting in the front row of the gallery, just behind the prosecution’s table. Some sobbed as the sentence was announced.