Connect with us

Entertainment

Harvey Weinstein Sentenced to 23 Years in Prison

Published

on

  • Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday for third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act. 
  • Weinstein was convicted of the crimes last month but was acquitted of more serious charges that carried a potential life sentence. 
  • This isn’t the end of Weinstein’s legal battles as he still faces charges in Los Angeles for other sex crimes he allegedly committed. 

What Was Weinstein Convicted Of? 

Disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in a New York state prison on Wednesday for his felony sex crimes conviction. 

On Feb 25, a Manhattan jury made up of seven men and five women found the 67-year-old guilty of a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. The charges were based on testimony from Miriam Haley, a production assistant who said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his Lower Manhattan apartment in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a then-aspiring actress who said Weinstein raped her at a Midtown hotel in 2013.

The jury made their decision after a seven-week trial and five days of deliberation, however, they did choose to acquit Weinsten of the most serious charges he faced: two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried the possibility of a life sentence.

Those charged required the jury to find that he had raped actress Annabella Sciorra’s in the early 1990s at her Gramercy Park apartment, but some jurors ultimately doubted her account and decided against that conviction. 

The jury also determined that Weinstein was not guilty of first-degree rape in the 2013 attack against Mann. That charge required the state to prove the use of force or a threat during the incident, so instead, the jury chose to convict him of third-degree rape, which only required prosecutors to prove a lack of consent.

In total, Weinstein faced a 29-year sentence; between five to 25 years for the criminal sex act charge and up to four years in prison for third-degree rape. Prosecutors asked for the maximum or near-maximum sentences, with an order for them to be served concurrently. Meanwhile, defense attorneys asked for him to get the minimum.

Weinstein’s Sentencing 

Haley and Mann read emotional impact statements ahead of his sentencing with Haley saying, “He violated my trust and my body and my personal right to deny sexual advances.”

“I could only hope whatever sentence, [it’s] long enough for him to acknowledge [what] he has done to me and others.”

For her part, Mann said Weinstein was “completely disconnected from the gravity of the crimes” he had committed against her and other women.

Weinstein also spoke during the hearing, talking in length about his charitable deeds. He at one point also compared the #MeToo movement to people being blacklisted for being communists during the Red Scare and according to Variety, said, “I think men are confused about all of this…this feeling of thousands of men and women who are losing due process, I’m worried about this country.”

He also suggested that he thought his relationships with the women were consensual and that he was “totally confused” by what they described. “We may have different truths, but I have remorse for all of you and for all the men going through this crisis,” he said to his accusers.

“I really feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deeply in my heart. I’m really trying, I’m really trying to be a better person,” he added. 

Judge James Burke ultimately handed down a 20-year sentence for the criminal sex act charge and a 3-year sentence for third-degree rape, which are to be served consecutively. He also said Weinstein will be formally registered as a sex offender. 

“I will say that although this is a first conviction, it is not a first offense,” Burke said when announcing his decision, adding that there is evidence of incidents of sexual assault against other women.

All six of the women who had given graphic accounts on the witness stand during the trial sat in the front row of the gallery in solidarity. They walked out of the courtroom together after the sentencing, some smiling and some in tears. 

Recently Unsealed Court Documents 

The sentencing is a major victory for the #MeToo movement, which gained momentum after several women came forward with accusations against Weinstein starting in late 2017. At least 80 women have made accusations against him for varying levels of harassment and assault. 

Recently unsealed court documents even showed that weeks after the first accusations were published by The New Yorker and The New York Times, Weinstein desperately reached out to wealthy friends for support,  including Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Mike Bloomberg. 

“I don’t need you to make any public statements — just a private one to my gmail address, saying that you support me getting therapy and the help I need before the board fires me. I’m in a tough spot. Many of the allegations are false, but I need your help with this private letter of support,” he wrote in a letter to the heads of Apple. 

“I need your friendship now,” he wrote to Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, asking him to provide a private letter to the Weinstein Company’s board.

The documents also showed how Weinstein dealt with all of the emerging claims against him. According to Variety, Weinstein was contacted in October 2017 by a reporter from the National Enquirer who said they were planning to publish a story reporting that Jennifer Aniston was sexually assaulted by him. Weinstein responded by email: “Jen Aniston should be killed.” 

Aniston’s representative has since told Variety that the Enquirer’s claims were false, saying,  “Jennifer has not been harassed or assaulted by Harvey.” 

Other documents showed that Weinstein compiled a “red flag list” of industry figures who he suspected might be talking about his sexual behavior to the media. That list was sent to his private investigators and included about 70 names like Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan, and several others. 

This New York decision does not mark the end of Weinstein’s legal battles by any means. Los Angeles prosecutors filed criminal charges of their own against him earlier this year alleging two incidents of sexual assault over a two-night period in 2013. 

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Fox News) (AP News)

Entertainment

N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Championed by Jay-Z That Would Restrict Use of Rap Lyrics in Court

Published

on

A companion bill currently sits in the state’s assembly.


“Rap Music on Trial” Passes Senate

The New York State Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would curb prosecutors’ ability to cite rap lyrics and other creative works as evidence in legal battles.

Dubbed “Rap Music on Trial,” the bill aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom,” according to a statement from State Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens).

“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” the statement continued. 

Right now, all forms of creative expression, including rap lyrics, can be used as evidence in criminal cases. Rap lyrics, however, are more likely to be weaponized against those who wrote them in trial, experts say. 

The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey said in a statement. 

Hoylman agrees that there is a double standard.

“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” he tweeted. 

The bill would not fully ban the use of rap lyrics in court. If made into law, prosecutors would need “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case” in order to use these works as evidence.

Major artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke previously signed a letter in support of the legislation.

A companion bill currently sits in the New York State Assembly. 

Rap Lyrics in Court

The use of rap lyrics against their artists is not an uncommon tactic. Earlier this month, an indictment charging Young Thug, Gunna, and two dozen others over alleged gang activity and conspiracy to violate racketeering laws used lyrics of the aforementioned artists. 

While the case is in Atlanta and would not be impacted by the New York bill, the use of their lyrics has stirred controversy. In a motion requesting that Gunna be released from jail, his lawyers argued that it was unfair to cite these works.

“It is intensely problematic that the State relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” his lawyers said in court documents. “These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the State’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.”

​​Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis defended the indictment’s use of the lyrics and argued it did not violate the artist’s free speech. 

In the letter signed by numerous recording artists, the authors said this kind of tactic “effectively denies rap music the status of art and, in the process, gives prosecutors a dangerous advantage in the courtroom.”

“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter, which was written by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson, said.  

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Pitchfork) (Complex)

Continue Reading

Entertainment

YouTube Touts MrBeast and Mainstream Appeal in First Upfront Presentation

Published

on

According to Nielson, over 230 million people in the United States used the video service in just one month. 


YouTube Presents at Upfronts

During its first Upfront presentation on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company said it was joining staple broadcast and entertainment companies “because YouTube is the mainstream.”

“Viewers have more choices than ever about what to watch or where to watch it,” Wojcicki said while speaking at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. “And they continue to use YouTube.”

The company had previously done its Brandcast presentation at the NewFronts. This was the first time its pitch came alongside television competitors during the busy Upfronts season.

Many of YouTube’s primary talking points were highlighted in a company blog post. In its address, it marketed itself not just as the future of media consumption, but as the modern-day leader, too. 

It said that over 135 million people watched YouTube on Connected TVs, representing every age demographic from toddlers to viewers 55-years-old and up. It also cited Nielson data that said YouTube has over 50% of ad-supported streaming watch time on TV screens. 

Nielsen also found that YouTube reached over 230 million people in the United States in just one month. 

YouTube Offers Up Its Talent

MrBeast, one of YouTube’s top creators, attended the presentation. The company boasted that if MrBeast were his own streaming service, he would “would have more subscribers than the next three most popular ad-supported streaming services.” In other words, with 95 million YouTube subscribers, MrBeast is ahead of HBO and HBO Max’s 77 million, Paramount’s 33 million, and Hulu’s 54 million in the United States. 

Or course, subscribing to a YouTube channel is very different from subscribing to a streaming service, as YouTube subscriptions come at no cost. Viewers can subscribe to as many or as few creators as they please for free, while each streaming service has a monthly or annual fee to gain access to its content. 

YouTube didn’t only show off its homegrown talent. Popstar Lizzo also took the stage to sing her praises of the company, along with a few of her biggest hits. 

But the company’s most important appeals came from the strengths it offered to advertisers. It claimed that 2020 Nielson analysis showed that YouTube on average had a 1.2 times greater return on investment than television.

It also announced a frequency optimization tool for advertisers that would allow companies to control how many times viewers see their spots in one week. In its blog post, YouTube said this allows for “more efficient” spending and “a better experience for viewers.”
It touted this optimization as “a solution only YouTube can provide.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (TubeFilter) (Variety)

Continue Reading

Entertainment

“Saturday Night Live” Faces Backlash for Sketch Mocking the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial

Published

on

Many fear that jokes about the case could hurt the everyday domestic abuse survivors that see them.


SNL Mocks Trial

After “Saturday Night Light” parodied the ongoing defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in its cold open this weekend, many are criticizing the show — and media at large — for making a mockery of the case. 

Ever since the trial began in April, there has been an onslaught of TikToks, tweets, videos, and other posts turning the happenings in the courtroom into clickbait content. Most of the posts use Heard as a punchline as the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp narrative prevails online. 

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” While she never mentioned Depp by name, many believed the piece referred to previous abuse allegations she had made about him. Depp, however, alleges that Heard was actually the abuser and concocted the claims to ruin his career. She countersued for $100 million. 

In its most recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Kyle Mooney as Depp, Cecily Strong as the judge, and Aidy Bryant and Heidi Gardner as lawyers in the case. The sketch took place in the courtroom as the involved parties discussed allegations that Heard defecated in her and Depp’s bed. They then watched “video evidence” of house staffers, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor, and Chris Redd, finding the fecal matter. 

At various points, Strong’s judge said they should continue watching the video “because it’s funny” and she and Mooney’s Depp both said they find the trial “amusing.”

“This trial is for fun,” the judge proclaimed at one point.

Many online did not see the humor in SNL’s parody, arguing that a case involving domestic abuse accusations should not be a punchline. Some said the sketch was “disgusting and desperate.”

“Domestic violence is not a joke. Rape is not a joke,” writer Ella Dawson tweeted. “Abusers using the legal system to continue to terrorize their victims is not a joke. Abusers using accusations of defamation to silence their victims is not a joke.” 

“In twenty years people are going to look back at this trial and all of the media coverage and be disgusted,” Dawson continued. 

You’re free to have absolutely no opinion on the Depp/Heard trial, but thinking it’s ‘for fun’ is for someone with a diseased heart and brain,” Meredith Haggerty, the senior culture editor at Vox, wrote.

Many felt that regardless of how someone feels or who they support in this case, those making fun of Heard are “making a joke of victims everywhere.”

Criticism of Media’s Trial Coverage

Others argued this sketch was part of an overall disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of this case where serious allegations were being played up for laughs. 

The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has trended on Twitter several times throughout the trial as fans defend the actor. Many also use it to mock Heard, share clips of her crying, and in some cases, spread misinformation about her courtroom claims. The tag is also popular on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 11 billion times as of Monday morning. 

Many of the videos involve jokes about the case, memes, fan cams, and other content meant to belittle Heard. On TikTok, the tag #AmberTurd has raked in over 1.6 billion views. Some videos involve animated renderings of courtroom videos meant to make Heard look careless or dumb. Others use audio of Heard alleging that Depp hit her along with silly imagery to make those claims look like a farce. Many involve people making fun of the way Heard has cried on the stand.

Experts have told numerous media outlets that by ridiculing Heard, Depp’s supporters are potentially harming abuse victims that may come across these posts. 

“I can’t imagine what this might be doing to someone who may eventually want to seek safety and support,” Ruth M. Glenn, the chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News. “Whether it’s Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, how dare us make fun and make light of someone who is sharing something very personal — no matter how we feel about that person.”

The trial is being broadcast live so interested parties can watch it unfold in real-time. The viral clips have allowed the case to become a massive entertainment spectacle.

Public discourse of the trial has sorted people into either “Team Depp” or “Team Heard,” and just a quick glance online will show that Depp has so far won a good portion of public favor. Still, no matter how one views the trial, many think jokes at the expense of Heard’s claims are a bridge too far.

“In the commentary, it’s almost as if people are forgetting that this is real life, that this is not a show that we’re all watching,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will go into a courtroom at some point and have an experience that is largely outside of their control, in a setting like this.”

“There’s such a strong desire in the public discourse for [Heard] to be the villain, for her to be the example of the fact that there are victims who have ulterior motives, that there are victims who are not telling the full truth,” Palumbo continued. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of folks thinking critically or wanting to understand the nuances of abuse or of unhealthy relationships.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)

Continue Reading