Kelsey Burtner | Layout Editor
On Monday, Feb. 24, Harvey Weinstein, the once renowned and most influential producer in Hollywood, was convicted of criminal sexual acts in the first degree as well as rape in the third degree. This conviction was decided by the members of the jury in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Currently, Weinstein faces a minimum of five years in prison with a sentencing set for March 11. However, while found guilty of two crimes of sexual misconduct, the producer was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced.
Weinstein was found not guilty of two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of rape in the first degree. These charges carry the highest possible sentences with predatory sexual assault carrying a penalty of 10 years to life in prison.
While the jury aquitted the most serious charges against Weinstein in the Manhattan trial, this is a monumental moment for the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement is an activism initiative fighting against sexual harassment and assault, and it was pushed into the mainstream media after the first allegations against Weinstein were published by the New York Times and the New Yorker in October of 2017.
According to the New York Times, many victims viewed the trial as “a crucial test in the effort to hold powerful men accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.” A conviction of any kind, despite the not guilty verdict on his most severe charges, is a victory in the ongoing battle for justice for the countless sexual assault victims at the hands of Weinstein and other powerful and influential abusers. Weinstein’s conviction has even been referred to as a watershed moment for those who are embroiled in similar situations.
After the verdict, Weinstein was handcuffed and removed from the courtroom as he had refused to move on his own and he was taken away in an ambulance to Bellevue Hospital Center for complaints of chest pain and blood pressure before being relocated to a medical center on Rikers Island. Rikers Island is the large jail complex in the city of Manhattan, where Weinstein will be held while he awaits his sentence hearing.
Currently, Weinstein is being held without bail and his lead attorney Donna Rotunno issued a statement that she and the rest of Weinstein’s legal team are working to have him placed under house arrest instead due to health issues. In addition, Rotunno has gone on record stating that the victims had consented to the sexual acts with Weinstein and only came forward as a way to take part in a growing feminist agenda. On the news podcast The Daily, Rotunno said that she had never been sexually assaulted “because [I] would never put myself in that position.”
By holding Weinstein responsible for his misconduct, this conviction opens the door for other victims to seek justice where it may have been impossible before. They no longer need to feel as though they are going up against a goliath that cannot be defeated in a court of law. The impact of this ruling will serve as an inspiration to others who have been suffering in silence.
The verdict sends out a powerful message of hope and demonstrates the amount of progress being made for sexual assault victims from all walks of life. Tarana Burke, the original creator of the #MeToo movement, said in an interview “Harvey Weinstein operated with impunity and without remorse for decades in Hollywood. Yet, it still took years, and millions of voices raised, for one man to be held accountable by the justice system.”
She went on to say “this case reminds us that sexual violence thrives on unchecked power and privilege.” Weinstein’s conviction demonstrates the ability to place checks and balances on power-hungry individuals and strips away the protection that for years was inherently linked to power and status. Those who felt weak have been empowered to fight back to make their voices heard. With the playing field becoming more level, justice and victory appear to be closer than ever before.