On October 23, 2017, journalist Ronan Farrow published an article in The New Yorker called "From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein's Accusers Tell Their Stories." The piece, which detailed producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment and assault of female talent in the entertainment industry using eyewitness accounts from several sources, including Asia Argento and Lucia Evans, would go on to become the epicenter of the #MeToo movement. It initiated a valuable cultural conversation about the prevalence of individuals in the entertainment industry who abuse positions of power.
After the story aired, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevigne, and Angelina Jolie came forward to corroborate the stories of the women featured in Farrow's article. To date, over 100 women have alleged abuse by Weinstein since 2017.
These events recently culminated in a lengthy New York trial that saw Weinstein sentenced to 20 years in prison for criminal sexual acts and three years in prison for rape.
Who Testified Against Weinstein?
Weinstein's New York trial called upon six witnesses. Two witnesses, Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, were called on to testify for the two crimes Weinstein was charged with, criminal sexual acts and rape. The other four witnesses were called on by prosecutors to establish Weinstein’s pattern of behavior applicable to those charges:
- Miriam Haley testified that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006.
- Jessica Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013.
- Annabelle Sciorra testified that Weinstein raped her in 1993.
- Dawn Dunning testified that Weinstein sexually harassed her in 2004.
- Tarale Wulff testified that Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted her in 2005.
- Lauren Young testified that Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted her in 2012.
The harrowing, vivid testimonies provided by these witnesses played a key role in the trial. The emotional burden of testifying on the witnesses was clear—Haley broke down several times while testifying, and Mann suffered a panic attack during her cross-examination. Their testimonies were vital in building a strong case for the prosecutors.
What Was the Verdict?
On March 11, 2020, Weinstein was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison by Judge James Burke. Weinstein will serve the 20-year criminal sexual acts and 3-year rape charges he was convicted of consecutively. Weinstein must serve at least six-sevenths of the term, which means he'll be up for parole when he's 87.
During the trial, Weinstein's attorneys contended he should receive the minimum sentence of five years due to his deteriorating health, arguing anything else would be a de-facto life sentence. Since his sentencing, Weinstein's health has continued to worsen. He had a heart event while stationed in Rikers that required a surgical operation and the installation of a stint in his heart. On March 19, he also tested positive for coronavirus.
At his sentencing, Weinstein spoke for almost 20 minutes, unprompted and without the counsel of his attorney. Weinstein discussed his confusion at the sentencing and his accusers, among a variety of other topics. You can read the full transcript of Weinstein's post-sentencing speech here. During the speech, his attorney prompted Weinstein to stop talking several times. Individuals who intend to appeal their sentence seldom speak after their sentencing. Since Weinstein's lawyers have announced that they plan to appeal his verdict, Weinstein's choice to speak post-sentencing is unusual.
What Happens Next?
Weinstein still faces rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey said her office has already initiated the process to extradite Weinstein from Rikers prison to LA, but complicating factors such as Weinstein's potential appeal, worsening health, and the current COVID-19 crisis could affect when his LA trial actually occurs.
Weinstein's sentencing in New York was a landmark event in a story that's played out on the world stage over the last two years, but it isn't the end of his legal battle.
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