Harvey Weinstein was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in California prison for the 2013 sexual assault and rape of an Italian model at a Beverly Hills hotel room, a term that will not even begin until after the 70-year-old serves an existing 23-year sentence in New York.
Dressed in a gray prison jumpsuit before a jammed Los Angeles courtroom, Weinstein made a final appeal to Judge Lisa Lench before she read her decision, dismissing his accuser as an actress who “can turn the tears on” and begging for mercy: “Please don’t sentence me to life in prison,” he said. “I don’t deserve it.”
Defense attorney Mark Werksman argued that Weinstein’s accomplishments and character – “many famous movie stars would thank in their Oscar speeches,” he said, among other things – should factor in his fate. Werksman asked Lench to sentence the father of five “who lived a full, rich, productive life” – not the man who “become a caricature because of the #MeToo movement.”
Unmoved, Lench handed down her prepared sentences for each of three counts: eight, six and two years, to be served concurrently, for a total of 16 – shy of the 18-year maximum.
Weinstein was convicted by a Los Angeles jury in December of rape, sexual penetration by a foreign object and forcible oral copulation. The accuser, known in court as Jane Doe 1, said she briefly met Weinstein at an Italia Film Fest event that evening – then was surprised when he showed up at her room, unannounced, before barging in and assaulting her.
Jane Doe 1 was one of several witnesses who took the stand, but the only whose testimony led to a conviction. The jury was deadlocked on three other charges, including those brought on behalf of Jennifer Siebel Newsom; and the panel acquitted Weinstein of one other charge.
Weinstein is appealing his New York sentence, which he began serving in 2020. California is not likely to allow him to serve his sentences concurrently, which means the clock won’t start running on the Los Angeles sentence until his New York time is served. If he were to fully serve both sentences, Weinstein would be 105 years old or more when released.
Weinstein was sitting in a wheelchair Thursday, as he’d done throughout the trial, though this time in drab jail attire instead of his usual suit and tie. The defense invested some energy into Thursday’s hearing, mounting a detailed, last-ditch attempt to get Lench to call for a new trial or, at very least, find some 11th-hour leniency.
Defense attorney Alan Jackson opened the morning by continuing to argue, as he had in past hearings, that exculpatory messages between Jane Doe 1 and Weinstein should have been allowed as evidence. Jurors “got sucked into the lies told by Jane Doe 1, because they didn’t get the whole story. The truth was very literally hidden from them,” he said.
But after hearing the prosecution’s side, Judge Lisa Lench denied the motion for a new trial and chose to proceed. Jane Doe 1, present in the courtroom and becoming emotional several times, gave her impact statement.
“Ten years later, the effects of this rape are still raw and difficult to discuss. I have been carrying this weight, this trauma. This irrational belief that it was my fault,” she said, beginning to tear up. “His selfish, disgusting actions have greatly impacted my life.”
She said before the attack, she was a “very happy and confident woman. I valued myself and the relationship I had with God … I thought I did something wrong because he chose me that night. I thought I did something wrong for him to do that to me. I soon became invisible to myself and to the world. I lost my identity. I was heartbroken, empty and alone. My rapist did that to me.”
She concluded by saying: “I will be forever grateful to the jury who found the defendant guilty of rape. By coming forward, I raised my voice. To all those people who feel ashamed, who blame themselves … I’m no longer invisible.”
Werksman then argued for each of the three charges to be sentenced at three years apiece, to be served concurrently – meaning just three years of time, total. “He’s a 70-year-old man in bad health,” Werksman said, citing several issues – including four lost teeth – while awaiting trial in L.A. County jail.
Werksman laid it on thick as he appealed to Lench on character grounds: “Mr. Weinstein did a lot of good for a lot of people in a 50 year career. … He produced hundreds of films that were a joy to millions of people. … He lived a full, rich and productive life that included being a father five children. … He gave generously to charities and political causes.”
Weinstein, who apologized that he could not stand up, spoke to the courtroom for the first time since saying, “Hello, everyone,” at the beginning of jury selection late last year.
“I maintain that I’m innocent,” he said. “I never raped or sexually assaulted Jane Doe 1. I never knew this woman, and the fact is she doesn’t know me. This is about money. … This is a made up story. … There are so many things wrong with this case. … I beg your mercy.”
Weinstein can still appeal the California case, and almost surely will, though he’ll be spending some time back in New York first: With the L.A. trial and sentencing out of the way, his New York appeal – to which he was granted the right in August of last year – can now proceed.