“For the women who testified in this case, and walked through traumatic hell, you did a public service to girls and women everywhere, thank you” – Ashley Judd.
On February 24, 2020, the #MeToo movement had their most significant and most decisive victory in their journey to bringing one of the sexual predators with the most power in Hollywood to justice. Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood movie producer, was convicted of third-degree rape, as well as of first-degree criminal sexual assault.
In October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published an article reporting on the dozens of instances of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape committed by Weinstein. Soon after the release of the article, over 80 women come forward to reveal similar experiences of this degree, which involved the once-renowned movie mogul. The story of Weinstein’s abuse kick-started what is known as the “Weinstein Effect,” wherein other high-profile figures, including Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., are being exposed for their acts of sexual assault and harassment. With honour, as well as awards being stripped from him, Weinstein effectively experienced a fall from grace.
After the story broke, the New York Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Metropolitan Police Service (in London, U.K.) launched an investigation on all the crimes committed by Weinstein. In May 2018, Weinstein was arrested by the NYPD, ordered to surrender his passport, and obliged to wear an ankle monitor. He was charged on May 25, 2018, for a first-degree criminal sexual act, two counts of rape, and two counts of predatory sexual assault.
In February 2020, Harvey Weinstein appeared in the Manhattan Supreme Court for his trial. The charges Weinstein was facing were mainly based on the testimonies of Miriam Haley and actress Jessica Mann. Haley testified that, in 2006, Weinstein forced her to give him oral sex, while Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013. During the trial, actress Annabella Sciorra also testified against the disgraced movie producer for rape in the winter of 1993. Even though her accounts happened outside the statute of limitations, prosecutors used her testimony to support the charges of predatory sexual assault charges. In total, six women testified against Harvey Weinstein at his trial.
On February 24, 2020, after 26 hours of deliberation, the jury found Harvey Weinstein guilty of committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree, as well as of committing rape in the third degree. However, he was acquitted when it came to the two counts of predatory sexual assault and the one count of first-degree rape.
Weinstein will be sentenced on March 11, 2020. He is facing 5 to 25 years of prison for just the charge of having committed a criminal sexual act. For the time being, Weinstein will be incarcerated at Rikers Island jail. His defense counselor, Donna Rotunno, who maintained that all sexual acts were consensual, will be filing an appeal on Weinstein’s behalf. Also, he is still facing sexual assault and rape charges in Los Angeles.
Reactions to the news of Weinstein’s conviction were swift and decisive.
“This is a big day. This is a new day. This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America”, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Actress Rose McGowan, who also came forward, added that she “can breathe now”. Another woman who came forward, Ashley Judd took to Twitter to thank all of the other women who testified against Weinstein.
Echoing this sentiment, Ronan Farrow, the journalist who first broke the story of Weinstein’s sexual abuses, thanked the women for coming forward; she said, “Today’s outcome in Harvey Weinstein’s New York trial is the result of the decisions of multiple women to come forward to journalists and to prosecutors at great personal cost and risk.”
By Jacques Wang