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Harvey Weinstein's lawyers call for mercy in sentencing

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Film producer Harvey Weinstein.  Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackso

Film producer Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackso

Film producer Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackso

Harvey Weinstein's lawyers argued on Monday he deserved mercy for his already "historic fall from grace" and serious health issues, as prosecutors sought a severe punishment for the disgraced movie mogul.

In a letter filed in advance of Weinstein's sentencing on Wednesday for his New York City rape conviction, his defence team asked Judge James Burke to give him to only five years behind bars - a far cry from the potential 29-year maximum term.

A man who was once admired for putting part of his fortune into charitable causes during his rise to one of Hollywood's most powerful producers now "cannot walk outside without being heckled", the papers say.

"He has lost his means to earn a living. Simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media."

Even if the ailing 67-year-old defendant is given a lesser term, "the grave reality is that Mr Weinstein may not even outlive that term" making it "a de facto life sentence," the papers say.

From the start, Weinstein's use of a walking frame in court appearances raised questions about his health.

After his February 24 conviction, he was sent to Bellevue Hospital amid concerns about high blood pressure and heart palpitations for more than a week before being transferred late last week to an infirmary at the notorious Riker Island jail complex.

In addition to heart issues, Weinstein's lawyers have said he is dealing with the ramifications of unsuccessful back surgery stemming from a car crash last summer and a condition that requires shots in his eyes so he does not go blind.

Prosecutors wrote that based on "a lifetime of abuse toward others, sexual and otherwise," the judge should impose a sentence that "reflects the seriousness of the defendant's offences" and punishes him for "his total lack of remorse for the harm he has done".

On the criminal sex act count, Weinstein faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 years, while the third-degree rape count carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

Judges often run sentences concurrently.

At Weinstein's sentencing hearing, his accusers will again have a chance to confront him in court, and the former producer will be afforded another opportunity to speak.

He declined to testify on his behalf at his trial, but at sentencing he would not have to worry about being grilled by the prosecution like he would have been under cross-examination.

Once Weinstein is sentenced, he will be transferred from the city's jail system to the state prison system. There, he will undergo a thorough evaluation, including a comprehensive medical review, to determine which facility is best for his physical and security needs.

PA Media