Disgraced former Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein could very well spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday on rape and sexual assault convictions, according to his lawyers.
According to Reuters, after the sentence was handed down by Judge James Burke in Manhattan criminal court, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said that prosecutors were "grateful" for the outcome and that the sentence "sent a message today that this type behavior is something that any potential offender is going to have to consider."
Late last month, a jury found Weinstein guilty, both of sexually assaulting former "Project Runway" production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 by forcibly performing oral sex on her in his apartment and the 2013 third-degree rape of actress Jessica Mann in a New York City hotel room.
While it falls short of the maximum 29 years that prosecutors wanted, Weinstein's sentence could very well put him in prison for the rest of his life. The convicted rapist is 67 years old and recently underwent a heart procedure at Bellevue Hospital before being transferred to Rikers Island prison last week.
Furthermore, in a letter to the judge earlier this week, Weinstein's attorneys claimed that he would likely die behind bars if given anything more than the minimum five-year sentence for his crimes, according to Deadline Hollywood.
"Given his age and specific medical risk factors," the letter reads, "any additional term of imprisonment above the mandatory minimum—although the grave reality is that Mr. Weinstein may not even outlive that term—is likely to constitute a de facto life sentence."
Before Wednesday's sentence was handed down, Weinstein addressed the court and his victims, saying, "I feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deep in my heart. I'm really trying to be a better person," according to USA Today. He also said, "I think about the thousands of men and women who are losing due process, and I'm worried about this country."
At a press conference following the decision, Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno blasted the sentence, saying that the number of years given to her client "did not speak to evidence, nor did it speak to justice." She added that she was "overcome with anger" at that number and that she thought the "judge caved."
Before the sentence was handed down, a tearful Haleyi told the court, "I believe that if Harvey Weinstein was not convicted by this jury, it would happen again and again and again," according to Fox News.
"I could only hope whatever sentence, [it's] long enough for him to acknowledge for what he has done to me and others."