Harvey Weinstein was found guilty by a jury in New York of sex crimes including rape but was acquitted of the most serious charges against him, in a verdict that activists declared a victory for women’s rights.
Weinstein, 67, was escorted out of a courtroom in handcuffs on Monday after the verdict was read, and faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 11. The verdict is the culmination of a six-week trial that was viewed as a landmark legal test of the #MeToo movement that was ignited three years ago by allegations against the disgraced film producer.
The high-profile case encompassed five charges against Weinstein based on two alleged incidents: raping Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress, in 2013 and forcing oral sex on Miriam Haley, a production assistant, in 2006.
After watching weeks of dramatic testimony by women alleging that Weinstein preyed upon them, the jury of seven men and five women began deliberating the Hollywood producer’s fate last Tuesday.
On Monday they determined that Weinstein was guilty of two of the five felony charges against him: committing a first-degree criminal sexual act, which rested upon the testimony of Ms Haley, and third-degree rape charges in connection with the allegations from Ms Mann. Finding Weinstein guilty of third-degree rape means jurors found he had sex with Ms Mann against her will, but not that he had used physical force or threatened serious bodily harm to her.
The jury acquitted Weinstein of the most serious charges against him, predatory sexual assault — which carried a sentence of up to life in prison — and first-degree rape.
The criminal sexual act felony carries a sentence of up to 25 years in jail, while third-degree rape carries a sentence of up to 4 years in jail. Judge James Burke revoked bail and Weinstein was taken into custody pending his sentencing hearing.
Tina Tchen, chief executive of the Times Up organisation, called the verdict a “historic moment”.
“The jury’s verdict sends a powerful message to the world of just how much progress has been made since the Weinstein silence breakers ignited an unstoppable movement,” she said.
New York’s state prosecutors had aimed to depict Weinstein as a violent rapist, repeating allegations of the former producer cornering actresses in hotel rooms and assaulting them. Six women testified against Mr Weinstein, often in graphic detail, about his transgressions and the trauma it had inflicted upon them.
But the prosecutors were challenged by the accusers’ complex relationship with Weinstein. Ms Mann carried on a sexual relationship with Weinstein for years, a fact that his defence team seized upon in arguing that women were using him for his Hollywood connections and that the sexual encounters were consensual.
Ms Mann appeared to have a panic attack on the witness stand after being questioned for five hours by Weinstein’s attorneys, forcing court to dismiss early on that day. But she returned the next day and told the jurors: “He is my rapist”.
More than 80 women, including actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault over the past two years.
However, the criminal trial in Manhattan focused only on the claims of Ms Mann and Ms Haley. The vast majority of claims against Weinstein did not qualify for this trial — some incidents had taken place too long ago to be tried in court, while others fell outside of New York’s jurisdiction.
Weinstein also faces criminal charges of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles.
Separately, Weinstein and his bankrupt film studio in December agreed in principle a $45m settlement with a group of more than 30 women who had accused him of sexual assault, putting an end to practically all potential civil law suits against him.