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Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape, sexual assault in landmark #MeToo moment

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Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault on Monday. He could face more charges.
Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault on Monday. He could face more charges.   -   Copyright  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)   -   Seth Wenig
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Women who testified against Harvey Weinstein "changed the course of history,” New York’s top prosecutor said on Monday after the film mogul was convicted of sex crimes.

A jury found the former Hollywood tycoon guilty of rape and sexual assault, but exonerated him of more serious charges.

The 67-year-old was immediately handcuffed and led off to jail. He will be sentenced on March 11.

It sealed his dizzying fall from powerful Hollywood studio boss to archvillain of the #MeToo movement.

It was also seen as a long-overdue reckoning for Weinstein after years of whispers about his behaviour turned into a torrent of accusations that gave rise to #MeToo, the global movement to encourage women to come forward and hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.

The jury of seven men and five women took five days to find Weinstein guilty of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haley in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013.

Weinstein faces up to 29 years in jail

He was acquitted on the most serious charges, two counts of predatory sexual assault, each carrying a sentence of up to life in prison. Both of those counts hinged on the word of “Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her and forcibly performed oral sex her at at her apartment in the mid-1990s.

The sexual assault charge carries up to 25 years in prison, while the rape is punishable by up to four years. Sentencing was set for March 11.

"This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and it is a new day. It is a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said. “Weinstein is a vicious, serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault and trick, humiliate and silence his victims."

Survivors 'weren't just brave, they were heroic'

He said the women who gave evidence, and the prosecutors who led the case, "changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence," and that the survivors of sexual abuse "weren't just brave, they were heroic."

Weinstein defence attorney Arthur Aidala said: “As sure as I'm a bald man, we will be appealing.”

The verdict followed weeks of often harrowing and excruciatingly graphic testimony from a string of accusers who told of rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and excuses from Weinstein.

“Weinstein with his manipulation, his resources, his attorneys, his publicists and his spies did everything he could to silence survivors," Vance said.

Weinstein’s lawyers contended that any sexual contact was consensual and that his accusers went to bed with him to get ahead in Hollywood.

The jury heard lurid testimony that Weinstein injected himself with a needle to get an erection, that his genitals appeared disfigured, that he sent Sciorra a box of chocolate penises and that he once showed up uninvited at her hotel room door in his underwear with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a video in the other.

Weinstein now faces charges in Los Angeles. In that case, announced just as the New York trial was getting underway on Jan. 6, authorities allege Weinstein raped one woman and sexually assaulted another on back-to-back nights during Oscars week in 2013.