20232402 Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein Image Credit: AFP

Harvey Weinstein, the onetime Hollywood titan who came to epitomize a culture of pervasive sexual misconduct by powerful men that ignited the #MeToo movement, was sentenced on Thursday to 16 years in prison for the 2013 rape of an actress in Los Angeles.

Weinstein was sentenced in a Los Angeles courtroom, where a jury in December found him guilty of rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object.

The charges stemmed from an assault on a former model and actress, identified in court as Jane Doe 1, at a Los Angeles hotel in February 2013.

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Weinstein, the powerful co-founder of Miramax Films, a U.S. movie production and distribution house, will serve the sentence after completing his 23-year sentence for a sexual misconduct conviction in New York.

Allegations against Weinstein helped fuel the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged women to speak out about sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in media, politics and other endeavors. The movement, which went viral on social media in 2017, seeks to break a culture of silence that has long allowed such conduct to go unchallenged.

Weinstein, who produced "Pulp Fiction," "Shakespeare in Love" and other successful independent films, has said all of his sexual encounters had been consensual, and he pleaded not guilty in the Los Angeles case.

Prosecutors called for a "high-term" penalty of 24 years because of the prior conviction, rather than a "mid-term" sentence of 18 years that California law would otherwise prescribe, absent additional "aggravating" factors.

Weinstein's team opposed the district attorney's recommendation for a high-term, consecutive sentence, given Weinstein's "advanced age and deteriorating health," defense lawyer Mark Werksman told Reuters in an email.

The jury acquitted Weinstein of charges relating to a second alleged victim and failed to reach a unanimous verdict on charges arising from two other accusers.

One of them, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, now the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, had disclosed she was the alleged rape victim referred to in court records as Jane Doe 4.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench declared a mistrial on the deadlocked charges.

Defense attorneys argued that the women willingly had sex with Weinstein because they believed he would advance their careers, part of what they said was a widespread "casting couch" culture in the film industry. In two of the cases, they said the alleged sexual contact was fabricated.

Weinstein was convicted of sexual misconduct in New York in February 2020. He was extradited from New York to Los Angeles prison in July 2021. Weinstein is appealing the New York conviction and prison sentence.