After being sentenced to 16 additional years last week, Harvey Weinstein is all-but-likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Weinstein is appealing his rape and sexual assault conviction, but for survivors, they feel justice has finally been served.
“Today, he will be sentenced. He cannot hurt anyone anymore,” Evgeniya Chernyshova, known in the case as Jane Doe #1, said at Weinstein’s sentencing on Feb. 23 at the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
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“I truly believe that this verdict, and the maximum sentence, will restore faith in the justice system for many survivors out there,” Chernyshova told the judge, moments before Weinstein was handed his punishment.
Chernyshova was the only woman to make a victim impact statement in the courtroom at Weinstein’s sentencing, because she is the only accuser whose testimony resulted in the jury convicting Weinstein on three charges. But during the two-month trial, eight women took the stand to testify about their alleged experiences with Weinstein.
Jane Doe #3, a massage therapist who has remained anonymous outside the courtroom, testified about numerous instances where Weinstein allegedly assaulted her during massage appointments. The jury acquitted Weinstein of the sexual battery charge related to her claims. Still, Jane Doe #3 expressed relief in Weinstein’s sentencing.
“Justice prevailed for survivors,” she said in a statement provided by her attorney. “No woman has to fear Harvey Weinstein again as he will never leave prison. I testified against Harvey Weinstein, staring that monster in the eyes for three days in a brutal trial during which Weinstein’s lawyers tried to smear me and all of his accusers, claiming that Harvey was the victim of the #MeToo movement. Today, the court rejected this notion and gave Harvey what he deserved.”
Jane Doe #3’s attorneys, Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Genie Harrison, applauded her and the other survivors for coming forward against Weinstein.
“Society owes a debt of gratitude to the brave women who ended Weinstein’s reign of terror as one of the most prolific sexual abusers in history,” the attorneys said in a joint statement. “It is fitting that he will live out the reminder of his miserable life behind bars.”
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom and the most high-profile witness of the trial, said justice has been served with Weinstein’s sentencing, but cautioned the public not to ignore the larger issues of systemic abusers and enablers. “This entire process has been one of the hardest experiences of my life,” she said in a video the day Weinstein was sentenced. “But the most important takeaway is that we all have a role to play in healing this culture in which violence against women is the norm.”
Siebel Newsom’s attorney, Elizabeth Fegan, says that despite the outcome of the jury’s mixed verdict, Weinstein’s sentencing was made possible by the “eight very courageous women who stepped forward to confront this serial rapist.” In addition to representing Siebel Newsom in the trial, Fegan also represented former actor and dancer Ashley Matthau, who testified that she was assaulted in 2003 by Weinstein in Puerto Rico where she was working on-location as a dancer in the Miramax film “Dirty Dancing : Havana Nights.”
“My clients, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Ashley Matthau, were resolute that they were not satisfied with Harvey Weinstein’s New York sentence, especially with an appeal in play,” Fegan says. “Their testimony gave them the power to reclaim their voices, both for themselves and on behalf of the many other women who were abused by Harvey Weinstein. It can’t erase the trauma they’ve endured, but it can serve as a catalyst for change and provide hope to other survivors.”
Louisette Geiss, a writer, lyricist and actor, testified during the trial as a corroborating witness of Siebel Newsom. She was not asked on the stand about her own experience, but she was one of the first accusers to come forward in 2017 with sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein.
“I am beyond grateful that Judge Lench sentenced Harvey Weinstein to enough years that will ensure he can never harm another woman again,” Geiss tells Variety. “Having to testify was beyond challenging to myself and my family, but with this sentence, I know it was all for the greater good. It’s about time serial predators feel the wrath of the judicial system.”
Geiss spoke to Variety outside the courthouse with fellow Silence Breaker, Caitlin Dulany, who accused Weinstein in 2017 of assaulting her at the Cannes Film Festival in the 1990’s. Dulany has become a prominent activist for survivors, elected as a Los Angeles Local Board Member with SAG-AFTRA and serving on their sexual harassment prevention committee. “While there will always be a deep sadness and a heaviness in my heart because of the sexual assault I suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein more than 27 years ago, today I feel a sense of vindication,” Dulany says.
For Dulany, Weinstein’s latest sentencing term represents much more than just the Los Angeles trial. She says the conviction is meaningful for the more than 100 women who have publicly accused Weinstein – many of whom will never get their day in court, due to the statute of limitations and other factors.
“Knowing that Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the crimes he committed against me and others ensures that some measure of justice was served today,” she says. “I stand with my fellow survivors who bravely came forward to tell the world about their experiences with Weinstein and then to relive those stories year after year, trial after trial to be a collective voice for all survivors, especially the voiceless. While any amount of time in prison could never make up for the trauma Weinstein caused each of his victims to suffer – a trauma we carry and will continue to carry with us every day of our lives – I have a sense of peace knowing that he will likely spend the remainder of his life in prison.”
Silence Breaker Jessica Barth, who was sitting in the courtroom for Weinstein’s sentencing with Dulany and Geiss, calls the sentencing “a win for all survivors of sexual violence.” She hopes the historic outcome of the Weinstein saga will have a positive impact on how the justice system handles sex crimes cases, which are notoriously difficult to prosecute, and statistically, mostly ignored.
“Judge Lench’s decision should embolden the LA district attorney’s office to prosecute the multiple cases still under review by their office – many for several months, some for years,” Barth tells Variety. “Every victim of such heinous crimes deserves their voice to be heard.” (Barth signals victims in need to contact her non-profit, Voices in Action.)
While Weinstein has been ordered to serve two consecutive sentences in New York and Los Angeles, he is appealing both convictions. Weinstein, who denies all allegations of sexual assault, faces an uphill legal battle, and many of his accusers shared that they are no longer worried he’ll walk free now that he has received two lengthy sentences in two separate jurisdictions.
Before Weinstein’s attorneys stated their intent to appeal, they attempted to get a new trial with a new jury, which the judge denied. Chernyshova will likely be the primary subject of Weinstein’s Los Angeles appeal, as she was the basis of the unsuccessful motion for a new trial. The Russian model, who testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013 during the LA Italia Film Festival, has become the key focus of Weinstein’s defense, who says she withheld relevant information from the jury and has accused her of having a financial motive, after she filed a civil suit against Weinstein.
Chernyshova’s attorney, Dave Ring, isn’t concerned about the prospect of Weinstein’s appeal. “Weinstein is out of options and justice has prevailed,” the lawyer says.
“It took tremendous courage for Jane Doe #1 and the other victims to come forward and testify against Weinstein,” Ring adds. “Jane Doe #1 withstood two full days of blistering cross examination by Weinstein’s lawyers, but the jurors unanimously convicted him and now he has been sentenced by the court.”
Although Weinstein’s sentencing is being applauded by his network of survivors, they all state there is still much work to be done for victims of sexual violence.
Women’s rights activist and high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three women in Weinstein’s LA trial, was disappointed that all of her clients were not given the opportunity to make victim impact statements at the sentencing. (The judge only allowed Chernyshova to make a statement in court, since the other women’s testimony did not result in a conviction.)
Now, Allred is fighting for increased rights for victims, who she believes should be able to speak up at sentencing hearings for their alleged perpetrators. The attorney has filed a petition with the California Court of Appeals, in which she is seeking a ruling that makes clear her clients have a right to give a victim impact statement at Harvey Weinstein’s sentencing hearing, even without a conviction in reference to their allegations.
“There was justice for Harvey Weinstein, but very little justice for the three victims that I represent and who testified in his criminal case in Los Angeles,” Allred tells Variety. “Although all of my clients either testified before the Grand Jury, or at trial, or both, the judge in this case denied them what we allege was their constitutional right under the California Constitution to give a victim impact statement at Harvey Weinstein’s sentencing today. This denial was deeply hurtful to them.”
“This case is bigger than the issue of how many years are contained in the sentence for Harvey Weinstein,” Allred continues. “It is about a victim’s right to be heard at a sentencing hearing by a court. Victims matter and their voices matter.”
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