'I Am Totally Confused': Harvey Weinstein Speaks as Judge Imposes 23-Year Prison Sentence

Harvey Weinstein
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein (R) enters New York County Supreme Court on February 24, 2020, in New York City, as jury deliberations in the high-profile trial were nearing a close. Scott Heins/Getty

Harvey Weinstein, the former Hollywood mogul who was convicted of rape in late February, spoke out about his experience in the criminal justice system before a New York judge sentenced him to 23 years in prison on Wednesday.

"I am totally confused," he said, adding that he had deep concerns about due process and was "worried about this country in a sense, too."

"I really feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deeply in my heart," Weinstein also said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

He faced a potential maximum sentence of 29 years, with a mandatory minimum five-year penalty. He must also register as a sex offender.

In a sentencing memorandum filed ahead of Wednesday's hearing, during which prosecutors asked the judge for a sentence at or near the maximum, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said Weinstein, 67, "consistently advanced his own sordid desires and fixations over the well-being of others."

The memo offered details of more than a dozen additional allegations of sexual abuse that her office's investigation uncovered, including one instance where an unnamed former actress said in 1981 she was unexpectedly greeted in a hotel room by Weinstein who told her, "I'm so big and cuddly and harmless."

The woman says that he pressured her to have sex with him, telling her she appeared "willing to do anything to get ahead."

Illuzzi-Orbon further argued in the memo to New York Supreme Court Justice James M. Burke that he should send a message "that sexual assault, even if perpetrated upon an acquaintance or in a professional setting, is a serious offense worthy of a lengthy prison sentence."

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance thanked the court "for imposing a sentence that puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice."

"We thank the survivors for their remarkable statements today and indescribable courage over the last two years. Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent. But they refused to be silent, and they were heard. Their words took down a predator and put him behind bars, and gave hope to survivors of sexual violence all across the world," Vance's statement continued.

A representative for Weinstein did not immediately return a request for comment.

In their own sentencing memorandum filed with the court, Weinstein's defense team described their client as a "complicated' person and contended that the trial "did not fairly portray who he is as a person."

They ultimately asked the judge to impose a five-year sentence, the minimum. In arguing for leniency, the defense memo sought to highlight Weinstein's good deeds over the span of his long career in the film industry.

"Mr. Weinstein always remained involved in the forefront of various social justice causes while producing films and building his career," Weinstein's lawyers wrote. "In fact, with his insistence and support, many of his movies promoted social justice themes and causes in order to better society."

A Manhattan jury convicted Weinstein on two felony charges—rape in the third degree and committing a criminal sexual act—while acquitting him on a more serious rape charge and two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried potential terms of life imprisonment.

The criminal sexual act conviction resulted in a 20-year penalty for Weinstein on Wednesday, and the rape charge earned him an additional three years' imprisonment.

Since his conviction on February 24, he spent more than a week in Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital for heart palpitations, Donna Rotunno, one of the defense attorneys, said. He was later moved to an infirmary at Rikers Island after a heart procedure was performed, with a final facility to be determined pending Wednesday's hearing.

The amount of time Weinstein ultimately spends in prison may be slightly less than the sentence imposed, due to "good time" factors.

His victims, Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, recounted how their lives were derailed after becoming entangled in Weinstein's professional and personal networks.

"I couldn't even get away from him at all," Haley testified during the trial about the moment in 2006 when Weinstein sexually assaulted her. "Ultimately, after a while, I decided to check out and endure it. That was the safest thing to do at that point."

The defense team attempted to use subsequent contacts between Weinstein and Haley and Mann to show they harbored no ill-will towards the producer, casting doubt on the severity of their claims. However, the prosecution was able to argue, successfully, that victims don't behave in rational and predictable ways that are conducive to analyzing their motives.

Weinstein's lawyers are also preparing to file an appeal, with Aidala announcing after the trial that "appellate lawyers who reviewed the transcript were very confident."

The trial team laid the groundwork for such a move throughout the proceedings, frequently marking objections to Burke's various decisions on evidence and testimony.

"I will say that the defense attorneys in this case are making a record thinking about an appeal and they've done a good job in this case of preserving the issues for appeal," Deborah Tuerkheimer, who prosecuted domestic violence cases in the Manhattan District Attorney's office in the 1990s and early 2000s, previously told Newsweek.