Harvey Weinstein Sentenced To 23 Years In Prison For Sex Crimes

Mar 11, 2020
Originally published on March 11, 2020 5:18 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced today to 23 years in prison. He was convicted last month of two sex crimes against two different women. Weinstein was once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Now more than 80 women have accused him of sexual misconduct. His case helped spur the #MeToo movement. NPR's Rose Friedman was in the courthouse, and she joins us now. We should let listeners know that this story does deal with sexual abuse.

Hi, Rose.

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: This is quite a fall for a man whose movies won Oscars and who commanded so much power in the movie industry. How surprising was the length of his sentence - 23 years?

FRIEDMAN: It was pretty surprising. He was convicted of one count of rape and one criminal sexual act, so the longest he could have gotten was 29 years. But his lawyers asked that he only get the minimum, which would have been five. They said he was a first-time offender with no criminal history and that he was someone who did a lot of good in his community by raising money for various charities. His lawyer, Donna Rotunno spoke on the courthouse steps afterwards, and she called the 23-year sentence obscene and obnoxious. I think we have some tape of her.

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DONNA ROTUNNO: I am overcome with anger at that number. I think that number is a cowardly number to give. I think the judge caved just as I believe the jury caved. And I am not happy.

FRIEDMAN: They've said that they'll appeal. They've argued all along that there's no way they could have gotten a fair trial with all the attention being paid to the #MeToo movement.

SHAPIRO: I understand two of Weinstein's victims spoke at today's sentencing. Tell us about what they said.

FRIEDMAN: Yup, all six women who testified were sitting in the front row. Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, who were the accusers in the charges, both addressed the judge. Haley said Weinstein's assault had stripped her of her dignity and diminished her confidence and her faith in people. She cried when she told the judge that she'd come to testify not as a perfect victim but as a human being. That was a reference to her testimony, where her friendly emails to Weinstein were used to try to convince the jury that she'd had a consensual relationship with him. And then Jessica Mann spoke. She told the court that her trauma is ongoing. She said rape is not one moment of penetration. It's forever. And then after the verdict, Tarale Wulff spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. She was one of the women who was brought in to testify to a pattern of behavior on Weinstein's part. Here's what she says. We have tape of her.

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TARALE WULFF: And when Judge Burke said 20 - I don't - for the first time, I can say I feel a sense of happiness, I guess, 'cause this isn't a happy circumstance to be - that we're all here for. But I feel joyous.

FRIEDMAN: I should say Weinstein was sentenced to 20 years for the criminal sexual act and then another three for the rape, so the first number we heard in court was that 20 that Tarale talked about.

SHAPIRO: And Harvey Weinstein also spoke today. What did he say?

FRIEDMAN: He did. He gave a kind of rambling statement. He talked about his charity work, about raising money after 9/11. He expressed remorse for the women and for the situation, regret for having spent his life working too hard, not spending enough time with his children and for being unfaithful to his wives. And he also expressed some bewilderment at the #MeToo movement. He compared it to the McCarthy-era red scare. He said, I'm totally confused, and I think men are confused about these issues.

SHAPIRO: And now he's got this 23-year prison sentence. But he also faces charges in Los Angeles, so what's next for him?

FRIEDMAN: Yup, the DA there said that they've begun the process of extraditing him from New York but that they don't have a date for his arraignment yet. He's charged with four additional counts against two women there. You know, he's also 67, and he's not in great health. He had a heart procedure last week, so 23 years could effectively be a life sentence no matter what happens in LA.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Rose Friedman in New York, covering the prison sentence following the trial of Harvey Weinstein.

Thank you very much, Rose.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.