Weinstein convicted of sex assault, rape in ‘new era’ for #MeToo

NEW YORK (AFP) – Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault but acquitted of the most serious predatory charges, a verdict hailed as a historic victory by the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.

The 67-year-old was remanded in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail after the jury of seven men and five women found the once powerful Hollywood producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree.

However, he left Rikers on Monday evening and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Centre in Manhattan for chest pains, his spokesperson told AFP.

Oscar-winner Weinstein, whose films include Shakespeare In Love, was found not guilty of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault, charges that could have seen him jailed for life.

But he faces up to 29 years in prison on the two felony convictions. The ashen-faced defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, showed little emotion after the verdict was delivered to a packed New York courtroom.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at the courthouse during jury deliberations in his rape trial in New York. PHOTO: AP

He was taken into custody pending sentencing, which was scheduled for March 11.

His lawyer Arthur Aidala said a “shocked” Weinstein was muttering ‘I’m innocent, I’m innocent. How could this happen in America?’”

Lead attorney Donna Rotunno promised an appeal, saying “the fight is not over” and applauded Weinstein for taking the decision “like a man.”

The mixed verdict offered a large measure of vindication for the dozens of women who made allegations against him.

It was the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years prior. The Time’s Up foundation, formed in the wake of the Weinstein case, celebrated the outcome as marking “a new era of justice.”

“Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There’s no going back,” it said in a statement.

Manhattan’s top prosecutor Cyrus Vance praised the women who testified against Weinstein as having changed “the course of history.”