Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein swung back at critics during his sentencing Wednesday, saying in a rambling defense of his character that he had "no great power in this industry" while addressing the two women at the center of his rape trial.
"I can't help looking at Jessica and Mimi and hope that something of our old friendship in me could emerge," he said before he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for third-degree rape and one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree.
The women — Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, and Mimi Haley, a former "Project Runway" production assistant — spoke during the sentencing about the emotional trauma that has lingered for years after, they say, Weinstein, 67, assaulted them.
During the trial, Mann had testified that she felt pressure to have sex with Weinstein, the co-founder of the entertainment company Miramax, after meeting him at a party in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles several years ago. Mann cried on the stand and described a dynamic with Weinstein that included his giving her gifts and favors while expecting her to cater to his sexual desires.
Weinstein's defense team argued that Mann continued writing Weinstein "loving" messages even after she said he sexually assaulted her.
"I read those letters of missing you, loving you, as a serious friendship ... I really, really was maybe hypnotic and under that impression ... that I had that relationship," Weinstein said Wednesday.
He added of his time spent with Mann and Haley, "I had wonderful times with these people."
The former film industry titan has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex and pleaded not guilty in the New York case. His attorneys have said they will appeal the conviction.
The once-powerful Hollywood producer also admitted to carrying on extramarital affairs and trying to hide them from his two former wives.
He also said he felt "badly" and worried that "I may never see my children again."
In all, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault and harassment, going back decades. The allegations became part of a wider societal reckoning known as the #MeToo movement, which has upended the careers of dozens of powerful and wealthy men.
Weinstein said he was "the first example" of men being accused and seemed to lament how thousands of others have lost their jobs or are afraid: "I'm worried about this country in a sense, too. I'm worried there is a repeat of the blacklist there was in the 1950s, when lots of men like myself ... did not work, went to jail because people thought they were communists."
But he denied using his positions at Miramax and later at his own production company to take advantage of women.
"Miramax at the height of its fame was a smaller company than by far any Walt Disney, any Sony, Paramount," Weinstein said. "I could not blackball anybody."
"I was not about power. I was about making great movies," he added.
He also listed his charitable efforts after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to help others in need.
"People said I said bad things to people, but there are so many people, thousands of people who would say great things about me," Weinstein said.
But he added that he hasn't seen his three older children since the publication of a 2017 New Yorker article that fueled the #MeToo movement — isolating him in a way that felt like "hell on Earth."
"If I had to do a lot of things over, I would care less about the movies and care more about my children, my family and other people and friends and other people in this life," he told the judge.