Victims of sexual assault hailed the conviction of Harvey Weinstein in a New York courtroom on Monday after the disgraced former movie producer was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault.
In a ruling that was seen as a watershed legal case for victims of sexual assault, Weinstein (67) was found guilty of two of the five charges brought against him by prosecutors in New York – rape in the third degree and criminal sexual act.
He was acquitted on the charges of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault – more serious offences that would have led to a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Nonetheless, Weinstein, who was led away from the court to jail in handcuffs, is expected to face a lengthy prison term when he is sentenced on March 11th.
The conviction marks a remarkable fall from grace for Weinstein who was one of the most successful movie producers in history, winning widespread acclaim with films including Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech and Good Will Hunting.
His case became a symbol of the MeToo movement as more than 80 women came forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, shedding light on the power dynamics of Hollywood and gender politics in the workplace.
The Manhattan case was based on the accusations of two women, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley. The evidence of Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra was also used in court to prove the count of predatory sexual behaviour, though ultimately the jury of five men and seven women acquitted Weinstein of those charges.
Speaking after the verdict, actor Rose McGowan who accused Weinstein of raping her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, described his conviction as a “massive cultural reset”.
“For once, he won’t be sitting comfortably. For once, he will know what it is like to have power wrapped around his neck,” she said.
‘Rape is rape’
Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said there was now a "new landscape for survivors of sexual assault".
“Rape is rape whether a survivor reports within an hour, within a year or, perhaps, never,” he said outside court. “It’s rape despite the complicated dynamics of power and consent after an assault. It’s rape even if there is no physical evidence and even if it happened a long time ago.”
Mr Vance had been strongly criticised for not pressing charges against Ms Weinstein in 2015 after accusers came forward.
Weinstein, who was present in court on Monday, is facing separate charges in Los Angeles.
His lead defence lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said her team would appeal the conviction and his immediate detention.
“It’s absolutely horrible for me to watch my client taken into custody,” she said. “Harvey is very strong. He took it like a man. He knows this is not over.”