Weinstein verdict a #MeToo milestone

Harvey Weinstein. Guilty.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/02/2020 (1199 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Harvey Weinstein. Guilty.

There are many women — dozens who are direct victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of the disgraced Hollywood producer, and millions more for whom the #MeToo movement holds deep personal resonance — who thought these words would never be positioned adjacently in the context of a courtroom decision.

But on Monday in New York, the trial of Mr. Weinstein ended with verdicts that found him guilty on two of the five crimes of which he had been accused. After five days of deliberation, the jury brought back guilty verdicts on one charge of rape in the third degree and one charge of criminal sexual assault in the first degree.

Not-guilty verdicts were delivered on two separate charges of predatory sexual assault and an additional charge of rape in the first degree.

As such, the outcome of the trial could not be considered a complete victory by the prosecutors who handled the case. But for the scores of women who, over the span of several decades, were dismissed and disempowered after being subjected to the lascivious pressures and blunt-force predations of a celebrated show-business titan whose long-rumoured transgressions went unreported because he was simply too powerful to confront, Monday’s verdicts represent a vindication far too long in coming.

Mr. Weinstein, 67, who was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdicts but later transferred to hospital after reportedly experiencing chest pains, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11. He faces a sentence of between five and 29 years; his lawyer has already declared the convictions will be appealed.

Further charges await in California, where in January the Los Angeles County district attorney — on the day the New York trial began — laid felony charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint, in connection with alleged assaults on two women over a two-day period in 2013. If found guilty, Mr. Weinstein would face a sentence of up to 28 years.

The significance of the New York case cannot be overstated, because in addition to being the highest-profile prosecution in this new era of accountability for long-shielded sexual misconduct, it was Mr. Weinstein’s case, and the women who came forward in forceful numbers to make their stories known, that essentially launched the #MeToo movement.

Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS
Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday.
Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday.

The resolve of those who spoke out in the Weinstein case no doubt gave strength to others who have been victimized by powerful males in the entertainment business and other fields. The list of once-untouchable men whose misdeeds have been brought to light continues to grow, with the likes of CBS executive Leslie Moonves, comedian/producer Louis C.K., NBC personality Matt Lauer, PBS/CBS correspondent Charlie Rose, R&B artist R. Kelly, Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn and dozens more having been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct.

Closer to home, Winnipeg-based fashion designer Peter Nygard and long-celebrated Canadian theologian and philanthropist Jean Vanier (who died last year) have been the subjects of sexual-misconduct allegations.

How those accusations will be dealt with, and whether any of their cases will result in convictions, remains to be seen. But for now, at least, this case stands as singular evidence that an irreversible societal change has been set in motion. It took more than 90 women coming forward with first-hand accounts of abuse to finally bring about a handful of charges that resulted in just two convictions, but the necessary progress of #MeToo is summed up in those three words:

Harvey Weinstein. Guilty.

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