Film producer Harvey Weinstein departs Criminal Court on the first day of a sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 6, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
As we predicted here when he was convicted last month, former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was slammed with a severe sentence — 23 years’ imprisonment.
Although it acquitted him of the predatory sexual-assault charges carrying the harshest potential sentences, a New York state jury convicted Weinstein of first-degree criminal sexual act (forcible oral sex) and third-degree rape (an act deemed not forcible but non-consensual). The former is weighted as an extremely serious offense in New York’s penal code, carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and a max of 25. The third-degree rape is punishable by an incarceration term of up to four years. So in total, Weinstein was looking at no less than five years, and up to 29 years, in the slammer.
State justice James A. Burke, who was the trial judge, did not quite throw the book at Weinstein, but came close. He imposed a 20-year term on the forcible attack and a three-year term on the rape, to run consecutive.
The defense had pressed for the minimum sentence, emphasizing Weinstein’s age and deteriorating health (the suggestion that even a five-year term could be a death sentence), as well as his lack of any criminal record — an attribute that is often persuasive in this era of complaint about “mass-incarceration.” But Justice Burke was persuaded by the contention of prosecutors (who had charged and tried the case very aggressively) that a harsh sentence was warranted in view of the numerous Weinstein victims who have come forward. That is a significant factor in determining an appropriate sentence, notwithstanding that the convictions in the case relate to just two of those victims.
Weinstein continues to maintain that he has never engaged in non-consensual sex. In a rambling speech prior to imposition of sentence, he told the court that this was his “truth,” though he added that he had remorse for the different “truths” expressed by those he preyed upon. There being only one actual truth, Weinstein’s post-modern gibberish undoubtedly did him no good with the judge, but I doubt anything he said would have made a difference.
Weinstein faces at least one more prosecution, if not more, in California. As I explained in the column linked above, there are some interesting appellate issues arising out of the New York case. It is highly unlikely, however, that Weinstein will ever again be a free man.