The district attorney in Harvey Weinstein’s case is pleased with the disgraced movie mogul’s sentence, but the movie mogul's attorneys are calling it "unfair."
Weinstein, who has been accused of violating scores of women, was convicted last month of raping a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman at his apartment in 2006. He faced a maximum of 29 years in prison but was given 23.
“The judge sent a message today,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. told reporters outside the courtroom shortly after Justice James Burke issued his sentence. “The judge took it seriously.”
He echoed those sentiments in a press release issued shortly after leaving the courthouse.
“We thank the court for imposing a sentence that puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice,” Vance said. “We thank the survivors for their remarkable statements today and indescribable courage over the last two years. Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent. But they refused to be silent, and they were heard. Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars, and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world.”
After the sentencing, Weinstein’s attorneys Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis spoke about the judge’s decision, blaming him and the media for essentially convicting Weinstein in the court of public opinion despite the actual case they made in his defense.
“Judge Burke was already prepared to say and do exactly what he did, no matter what we said today,” Rotunno told reporters outside the courthouse.
She further chastised Burke’s “total unfairness” and “complete lack of acknowledgment of what the facts in this case actually showed.”
Rotunno noted that the defense’s efforts to show that these women had relationships with Weinstein after the crimes were committed has left Harvey “confused.”
“Harvey is very confused. I think he’s very sad, I think he had relationships with women that are different from the way they now characterize him,” she said.
Rotunno continued: “We don’t know what happened in those rooms but what we do know is all of the circumstances that surrounded it and I will never be able to reconcile that.”
She noted that she believes the behavior of the women after the crimes took place did not seem on par with how average rape survivors react.
Cheronis pulled no punches in his characterization of the sentence, saying the trial was unfair to Weinstein from the get-go.
“He wasn’t treated fairly at all. Let's just call it what it is, not by the judge, not by the jury, not by a lot of you,” he told reporters. “That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about anything else other than whether there was reasonable doubt in this case and, to say there wasn’t based on the case we laid out, is ridiculous.”
Both women that Weinstein was convicted of assaulting — a once-aspiring actress and a former TV and film production assistant — spoke in court Wednesday before Judge Burke announced the sentence, confronting Weinstein again after their testimony helped seal his conviction at the landmark #MeToo trial.
One of the women’s attorneys, Gloria Allred, spoke after Weinstein’s attorneys. She approached reporters holding a piece of paper that had Weinstein’s sentence on it “20 + 3.”
“This is what justice looks like,” she began. “After compelling arguments by the prosecution and after arguments by the defense. And, most importantly, after heartfelt victim impact statements.”
She noted that, although it was four years shy of the maximum sentence, she and her clients are pleased with the amount of time Weinstein will spend behind bars. She also commented on the notion that Weinstein is confused by the verdict.
“Well, maybe he’s confused. I don’t know if he’s speaking for all men. I don’t know that he’d have a vote from all men to be their messenger, but I will say this,” she explained. “If you are a sexual predator and you are confused, all you have to do is remember this. 20+3 years. And part of the consideration in handing down a sentence by a court to a person convicted of felonies is to consider the deterrent effect. So for all those who are still preying on women, who want to engage in the high risk harming women and thinking you’ll get away with it… that gamble is likely not to pay off for you anymore. And if you’re a high profile figure, don’t expect anything but equal justice.”
None of Allred’s clients chose to speak after the sentencing. However, a group of women known as The Silence Breakers, many of whom previously accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, issued a statement on the sentence shortly after it was handed down.
“Harvey Weinstein's legacy will always be that he's a convicted rapist. He is going to jail – but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused,” the statement reads. “The Silence Breaker community was founded on solidarity, support, and compassion. The New York trial has ended, but the Silence Breakers will persist in our crusade for cultural change, justice and to have our voices heard.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.