Harvey Weinstein's attorneys seek leniency in sentencing since #MeToo backlash has been so "severe"

The disgraced film mogul was convicted of third-degree rape and a criminal sex act. He faces sentencing Wednesday

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 10, 2020 5:16PM (EDT)

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The defense team for convicted rapist and disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein is asking for their client to receive only five years in prison, the statutory minimum for someone convicted of one counts of third-degree rape and one count of a criminal sex act.

"Mr. Weinstein cannot walk outside without being heckled, he has lost his means to earn a living, simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media," the attorneys wrote in a letter to Justice James Burke on Monday. "Deserved or not, this is certainly a unique and extremely severe consequence that Mr. Weinstein had to endure, and in the age of social media and given his fame, virtually unrivaled when compared to any other defendant in the state of New York if not nationally."

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi filed her own sentencing memorandum on Friday, pointing to 36 uncharged accusations of sexual assault, harassment, and bullying as proof that Weinstein belongs behind bars.

"These acts, viewed in the totality, establish that throughout his entire adult professional life, defendant has displayed a staggering lack of empathy, treating others with disdain and inhumanity," Illuzzi argued.

Weinstein was convicted last month of third-degree rape against former actress Jessica Mann in 2013 and a criminal sexual act against former production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006. Four other women accused of Weinstein of sex crimes during the trial, including Tarale Wulff, Dawn Dunning, Annabella Sciorra and Lauren Young. Roughly 100 women overall have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, and he is being charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault in a separate trial scheduled to begin in Los Angeles.

If Weinstein goes to prison, he will have to adjust to a lifestyle far different from the luxurious one to which he has grown accustomed. Former New York state prosecutor Mark Bederow told Bloomberg, "New York state prisons are terrible. It's not like the federal system. There are no tennis courts, no open plans and rolling lawns. It's not like what you see in the movie 'Goodfellas,' where they're making pasta sauce. Think 'The Shawshank Redemption.' Think high prison walls, guard towers and small crowded cells."

New York criminal defense lawyer Jeff Lichtman, who represented the Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, said, "I tell clients: Keep to yourself, don't talk about your case, don't fight over the television, try not to get involved in political divisions inside prison. Read books and try to get into a segregated population, preferably."

Weinstein has suffered from several medical issues since the start of his trial, according to his publicist. He used a walker during his trial, even though he is reported not to be using one in jail, reportedly had heart surgery shortly last week and suffered a concussion after falling earlier this week. Some observers believe Weinstein is faking or exaggerating his maladies in order to garner sympathy in his trial and sentencing. One of his accusers, Louisette Geiss, described Weinstein as "a very good actor" and said "this is a man who knows how to manipulate the press and clearly he's done so with his iconic walker; let's just say I know women who are literally dying who are also victims and I say let's give them the help."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Aggregate Harvey Weinstein Jessica Mann Me Too Miriam Haley Sexual Abuse