Outrage over six-month sentence in Stanford rape case
Widespread outrage has erupted over a California judge’s decision to give a former Stanford University swimmer a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Critics are blasting the decision as far too lenient.
Prosecutors had asked that Brock Turner be sentenced to six years in prison for the January 2015 assault.
The controversial sentence was followed by the release of two dueling letters to the judge about the case that have been widely shared and sparked further outcry: one from the victim, who described her ordeal in 12 searing pages; and another from Turner’s father, who dismissed his son’s crime as “20 minutes of action.”
Turner, 20, was convicted in March of the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky said on Thursday that Turner’s age and lack of criminal history made him feel that imposing a six-month jail sentence with probation was appropriate. Turner also has to register as a sex offender.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
But by the early hours of Tuesday morning, more than 191,000 people had signed a Change.org petition to recall Persky, a possibility in California, where judges are elected.
“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” the petition read. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”
Stanford University released a statement Monday deflecting criticism of its handling of the case. The school did “everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case,” from immediately investigating the incident to referring it to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, the statement said.
“Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking. In less than two weeks after the incident, Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus — as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student,” the statement said.
The school also commended bystanders who intervened and students who cooperated with the investigation.
“This was a horrible incident, and we understand the anger and deep emotion it has generated. There is still much work to be done, not just here, but everywhere, to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence in any form and a judicial system that deals appropriately with sexual assault cases.”
A judgment according to the law
However outrageous it may seem to many, the judgment follows California law, said David LaBahn, the president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, who practiced in California for many years.
“Judges are allowed wide discretion,” he said.