Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on Monday of sex crimes in a high-profile trial that marks a defining moment for the #MeToo movement against sexual assault.
Weinstein, 67, was convicted of a criminal sexual act for forcing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and of the third-degree rape of aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013.
Jurors found him not guilty of predatory sexual assault, which could have landed him behind bars for life, and rape in the first degree.
After the verdicts were read out, the producer – once one of the most influential figures in the movie business – was handcuffed and bundled out of the courtroom by security guards.
Judge James Burke ordered him to go to prison immediately. He will be sentenced on March 11.
The jurors reached their verdict on the fifth day of deliberations, after indicating they were deadlocked on the two most severe charges on Friday.
The panel of seven men and five women had heard weeks of often emotional and harrowing testimony by Mann and Haleyi, as well as several other witnesses brought by the prosecution in an effort to demonstrate a pattern of predatory behaviour by Weinstein.
They also heard “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra’s account of how Weinstein allegedly raped her in the early 1990s – allegations that were too old to be charged on their own but were key parts of the two predatory sexual assault charges.
Weinstein’s defence team argued that the encounters were consensual, pointing to warm messages from the women to the producer after the alleged attacks.
Lead defence lawyer Donna Rotunno said the relationships were being “reimagined” in a “narrative” spun by “overzealous” prosecutors, and that the accusers used Weinstein to further their Hollywood careers.
The jurors appeared to show particular interest in Sciorra’s allegations, requesting to review parts of her testimony during deliberations.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance called it a “big day,” saying Weinstein could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“It is not the top counts in the indictment, but by no means am I dissatisfied,” Vance said at the courthouse.
The judge said he would request for Weinstein, who has been using a walking frame, to be put in an infirmary after Rotunno argued that he needed medical attention after back surgery.
Speaking outside the court building after the verdict, Rotunno said she would “absolutely be appealing.”
“Obviously he’s disappointed, but he’s strong, he’s mentally tough and he’s going to continue to fight,” she said.
The jury’s decision marks a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, a global reckoning about sexual harassment and assault that was triggered by revelations of numerous allegations against Weinstein in US media in 2017.
Since then, more than 80 women have accused the once-powerful producer of sexual misconduct.
The verdict was celebrated on social media by several accusers, including the actress Ashley Judd, as well as the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
“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,” Judd tweeted.
Journalist Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on Weinstein helped trigger the #MeToo movement, said the outcome was “the result of the decisions of multiple women to come forward to journalists and to prosecutors at great personal cost and risk.”
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the voices of the silence breakers in and outside of the courtroom, the survivors who courageously testified, and the jurors who, despite an unrelenting and unethical defense strategy, voted to find an unremorseful Harvey Weinstein guilty,” read a statement on #MeToo’s website.
“This trial — and the jury’s decision today — marks a new era of justice, not just for the Silence Breakers, who spoke out at great personal risk, but for all survivors of harassment, abuse, and assault at work,” Tina Tchen, president and chief executive of the TIME’S UP Foundation against sexual harrassment, said. (dpa)