Harvey Weinstein, the onetime Hollywood titan who came to epitomize a culture of pervasive sexual misconduct by powerful men that ignited the #MeToo movement, was sentenced on Thursday to 16 years in prison for the 2013 rape of an actress in Los Angeles.
The sentence, imposed as a consecutive penalty to the 23-year prison term Weinstein, 70, already is serving for a sexual misconduct conviction in New York, makes it all the more likely that the Oscar-winning ex-producer will spend the rest of his life incarcerated.
Weinstein, seated in a wheelchair in brown jail garb, professed his innocence and implored the judge, “I beg your mercy,” moments before she pronounced his sentence. The two-hour proceeding unfolded in the same Los Angeles courtroom where a jury in December found Weinstein guilty of rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object.
The charges stemmed from an assault on a former model and actress, identified in court as Jane Doe 1, at a Los Angeles hotel in February 2013.
Addressing the court through tears and a trembling voice near the end of Thursday’s hearing, the woman said she had been a “very happy and confident woman” until Weinstein raped her. Then, “I lost my identity. I thought for sure that no one could love me. I was heartbroken, empty and alone,” she added, choking back sobs.
The 16-year prison term handed down by Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench was more lenient than the maximum 24 years recommended by prosecutors but far more stiff than the sentence sought by Weinstein’s lawyers.
Defense counsel Mark Werksman asked that Weinstein get no more than three years for each of the three counts on which he was convicted, to be served concurrent to one another, arguing the charges stemmed from “one continuing sexual assault” that occurred in “one frenzied 10- to 15-minute ordeal,” rather than as three separate criminal acts.
It was a rare courtroom admission of guilt by defense lawyers, even as Weinstein himself continued to deny any wrongdoing.
In his statement to the court, Weinstein insisted he did not know Jane Doe 1 and argued that she had fabricated her account for money.
“This is a made-up story. Jane Doe 1 is an actress. She can turn the tears on,” Weinstein told the judge. “Please don’t sentence me to life in prison.”
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