He was the mogul who ruled Hollywood. Now, convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein will await sentencing at one of the world’s most violent prisons.
He was the mogul who ruled Hollywood. Now, convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein will await sentencing at one of the world’s most violent prisons.

‘Torture Island’ awaits rapist Harvey Weinstein

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein will await sentencing at one of the world's most violent and controversial prisons, New York's notorious Rikers Island jail complex.

Situated on the East River between Queens and the Bronx, Rikers - nicknamed Torture Island - has an average population of 10,000 inmates and is plagued by gang violence and allegations of human rights abuses by prison officers.

 

Weinstein's legal team has requested that he be housed in the North Infirmary Command, which is home to inmates requiring extreme protective custody, those with severe health problems and prisoners undergoing drug detoxification.

North Infirmary consists of two dank infirmary buildings, one of them the original Rikers Island Hospital built in 1932. According to previous workers, the infirmary does not provide much of a respite to inmates.

Weinstein's team has asked that he be brought to the Anna M Kross Centre - named after the second female commissioner in the Department of Corrections - which serves as a mental health unit and has a capacity of 2,988 inmates.

An aerial view of the sprawling Rikers Island prison complex.
An aerial view of the sprawling Rikers Island prison complex.

Officials have been calling for the closure of Rikers Island for years, citing regular violent incidents

It's a dizzying fall from grace for the former movie mogul, who once ruled Hollywood. The 67-year-old, now known as prisoner 06581138Z, will be sentenced on March 11.

 

Gwyneth Paltrow, who later accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, with the former mogul in 2002. Picture: Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow, who later accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, with the former mogul in 2002. Picture: Getty Images

 

After being found guilty on two of five sex crimes charges by a New York jury, Weinstein was due to head to Rikers but was instead diverted to Bellevue Hospital 's prison ward in Manhattan with "chest pains"

A lawyer for Weinstein, who has regularly used a walker while heading to his court appearances, reminded Judge James Burke on Monday of some of her client's ailments, noting he takes several medications and requires injections in his eyes to forestall blindness.

His leal team also claim that he has been having heart palpitations.

After the hearing, court officers handcuffed Weinstein and put their arms under his, leading him unsteadily out of the courtroom via a side door without the use of his walker.

He was later taken from the courthouse in an ambulance, strapped to a stretcher in his suit, in what was believed to be just a precautionary measure, and taken to Bellevue.

Bellevue is known for its psychiatric facility, but it also serves as a hospital for jail inmates.

 

Weinstein, 67, faced charges on two counts of rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of a criminal sexual act.

The Oscar-winner, whose films included Shakespeare in Love, was found guilty of a criminal act in the first degree and rape in the third degree.

The disgraced Hollywood heavyweight was acquitted on the most serious charges, of predatory sexual assault, which had carried a potential life sentence.

Weinstein had a look of resignation on his face as he heard the verdict that could send him to prison for up to 29 years.

His lawyer Arthur Aidala told news.com.au his client proclaimed his innocence after the verdict was announced.

"The words he said over and over again to me is: 'I'm innocent, I'm innocent, I'm innocent. How could this happen in America?'" Mr Aidala said.

In this courtroom sketch, Harvey Weinstein, centre, is led out of Manhattan Supreme Court by court officers after a jury convicted him of rape and sexual assault. Image: Elizabeth Williams via AP
In this courtroom sketch, Harvey Weinstein, centre, is led out of Manhattan Supreme Court by court officers after a jury convicted him of rape and sexual assault. Image: Elizabeth Williams via AP

Hollywood stars have been quick to react to the verdict, led by the women that have accused Weinstein of sexual assault or other misconduct.

Ambra Gutierrez, who helped expose Weinstein, said the verdict was just the start.

"This is an example for many to follow," she said outside the courtroom.

"Someone even this powerful could never treat people the way that he did and think that he can never be prosecuted."

Rose McGowan said it was a "huge step".

 

Mira Sorvino was also hopeful of change.

 

Ashley Judd and Reese Witherspoon credited the women at the centre of the New York case.

 

 

Patricia Arquette said despite an appeal by his lawyers, Weinstein will now "always be a rapist".

 

The charges stemmed from the allegations of former Project Runway production assistant Miriam "Mimi" Haleyi, who said he forced oral sex on her on July 10, 2006, at his Soho apartment; one-time aspiring actress Jessica Mann, who claimed Weinstein raped her on March 18, 2013, at Midtown's DoubleTree Hotel; and The Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who accused Weinstein of raping her in the winter of 1993-1994 at her Gramercy Park apartment.

The seven-man, five-woman Manhattan Supreme Court panel in the rape trial of the disgraced Hollywood movie maker began considering the sex crimes charges against him last Tuesday morning local time.

 

 

"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," 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."

Weinstein's lawyers said they will appeal.

"Harvey is very strong. Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man," defence lawyer Donna Rotunno said.

"He knows that we will continue to fight for him, and we know that this is not over."

Accuser: Mimi Haleyi. Picture: Getty
Accuser: Mimi Haleyi. Picture: Getty

Deliberations began shortly after Justice James Burke finished giving jurors detailed legal instructions on how to decide whether Weinstein is guilty.

The judge cautioned jurors in the trial that their verdict is "not a referendum on the #MeToo movement".

Weinstein, a father of five, has maintained his innocence from the onset, pleading not guilty to all of the charges.

He has claimed that all of his sexual encounters were consensual.

The jury had last week failed to reach a verdict after four days of deliberations and requested clarification from the judge on several matters.

On Friday, they asked the presiding judge if they can be "hung" on the two counts of predatory sexual assault which could jail him for life.

After consulting with prosecutors and Weinstein's lawyers, Judge Burke told the jury of seven men and five women to keep working toward a unanimous verdict on all charges and sent them back to continue deliberating.

Accuser: Jessica Mann. Picture: Reuters
Accuser: Jessica Mann. Picture: Reuters

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Weinstein's lawyers said they would accept a partial verdict, but prosecutors said no and Judge Burke refused to do so.

Judge Burke told the jurors it is not uncommon for juries to have difficulty reaching a unanimous verdict, but that most are eventually able to do so.

In their note to the court, jurors asked whether it was acceptable to be deadlocked on the two charges and unanimous on the other three.

"Any verdict you return on any count, whether guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous," the judge said.

"And so I will ask you to continue your deliberations and let me just take this juncture to thank you for your hard work," he said.

Jurors started the fourth day of deliberations by listening to a reading Ms Sciorra's cross-examination and follow-up questioning by prosecutors. About 90 minutes into the reading, the jurors notified the judge they had "heard enough" and resumed their deliberations.

Accuser: Annabella Sciorra. Picture: AP
Accuser: Annabella Sciorra. Picture: AP

The verdict is not the end of Weinstein's legal issues, with Los Angeles prosecutors waiting until the New York trial ended to commence proceedings in new sexual assault charges, which carry a potential 28 years jail.

Once one of Hollywood's most powerful men, Weinstein suffered a dramatic downfall since being accused by more than 80 women of sexual offences, the first revelations lighting the match that sparked the #MeToo movement in October 2017.

Weinstein issued an apology at the time, acknowledging he had caused "a lot of pain", but disputed suggestions he had harassed women over three decades.

His lawyers argued that as figurehead of a cultural reckoning, Weinstein won't have a fair trial.

Lawyer Donna Rotunno (left) and her client Harvey Weinstein. Picture: Getty
Lawyer Donna Rotunno (left) and her client Harvey Weinstein. Picture: Getty

Dozens of women including some of Hollywood's biggest have accused Weinstein of sexual assault after he was first exposed as a serial predator by media reports in 2017.

He also faces a series of civil suits from actors Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and more than 30 other accusers, several of which are reportedly close to being settled in a $36.3 million payout.

Weinstein was one of Hollywood's most powerful men for decades and the production house he ran with his brother generated some of the most successful films of the 1990s and 2000s.

He was accused of using his prominent position to pressure women into sex, retaliating against those who refused him by destroying their careers and employing a series of shadowy operatives to gather dirt on his accusers to deter scrutiny of his behaviour.

The media reports that eventually brought him down won Pulitzer Prizes for their authors and sparked a cultural reckoning that ended the careers of dozens of high profile men accused of sexual harassment and worse.

In this courtroom sketch, Harvey Weinstein sits in a Manhattan courtroom as the judge instructs the jurors. Picture: AP
In this courtroom sketch, Harvey Weinstein sits in a Manhattan courtroom as the judge instructs the jurors. Picture: AP

Los Angeles District lawyer Jackie Lacey announced the new charges against Weinstein on the first day of his New York trial.

They allege he raped one woman and sexually assaulted another days before the Oscars in 2013 when his wife was pregnant.

The first woman accused Weinstein of raping her in her hotel room after a film festival, and threatening to kill her if she disclosed the attack, while the second woman says he sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of Beverly Hills Hotel suite.

Weinstein has not entered a plea to the charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

- with AP

 

Harvey Weinstein's walker sits folded up in a sport utility vehicle outside Manhattan Supreme Court after he was ordered to jail immediately. Picture: AP
Harvey Weinstein's walker sits folded up in a sport utility vehicle outside Manhattan Supreme Court after he was ordered to jail immediately. Picture: AP