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Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault Wednesday, capping a sensational downfall for the once-powerful producer in a landmark case for the MeToo movement. Weinstein, who turns 68 next week, faces spending the rest of his life behind bars after New York Justice James Burke rebuffed his pleas for the minimum five-year sentence.

The judge, issuing a heavy term close to the maximum 29 years allowed, was unmoved by a rambling statement Weinstein made to the court in which he failed to express any remorse for his actions or apologize to victims.

"I'm totally confused," Weinstein said, before blaming the MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power for his predicament.

"I was the first example and now there are of thousands of men being accused. I'm worried about this country," he added.

The sentencing completed a dramatic fall from grace for the titan-turned-pariah, who lost much of his $150 million fortune fighting allegations that surfaced in October 2017.

Nearly 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have come forward alleging 40 years of vile predatory behavior by the Oscar-winning producer of "Shakespeare in Love" and numerous other critical and box office hits.

The Silence Breakers - a group of 24 Weinstein accusers that includes Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan - said Weinstein's legacy would always be his rape conviction. "He is going to jail - but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused," they said in a statement.

Weinstein was taken away from the Manhattan criminal court in a wheelchair as the six accusers who testified at his trial, including actress Annabella Sciorra of "The Sopranos," hugged in the front row. Members of the public clapped as the accusers and prosecutors walked out of the courtroom.

Weinstein was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree on February 24. His lawyers have appealed.

Seven men and five women convicted him of raping ex-actress Jessica Mann in 2013 and of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.

Mann, 34, and Haleyi, 42, delivered powerful victim impact statements Wednesday.

Haleyi said being attacked by Weinstein had "diminished my confidence and faith in people."

Mann said his conviction had given her the strength to rebuild her life.

"My monsters are no longer hiding in my closet," she told the court. The producer - famous for his hard-nosed approach to work and Oscars campaigns - was cleared of the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault, as well as rape in the first degree. But prosecutors called on Burke to issue a lengthy jail term, saying Weinstein engaged in a "lifetime of abuse" and had shown "a total lack of remorse" for his actions.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2020

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