An effort is underway to recall the judge who gave a six-month sentence to a former Stanford University student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party early last year.
The case has been a flash point in the national debate over sexual assault on college campuses. Brock Allen Turner, a former varsity swimmer at Stanford, was convicted on three felony counts of sexual assault for a January 2015 incident. Two graduate students saw Turner on top of an unconscious woman next to a trash bin, chased him down and got help for the woman.
Turner said in court that the encounter was consensual. Turner was sentenced to six months in jail and then probation, a ruling that outraged some as too lenient. He also must register as a sex offender.
Michele Landis Dauber, a professor of law at Stanford Law School, said a group of Californians is beginning a recall campaign for Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, forming a political action committee, raising money and beginning the process of collecting tens of thousands of signatures.
“The sentence is completely inappropriate,” Dauber said. “It’s far outside the range of what the legislature intended. It’s out of step with community values. … We can’t send a message that campus rape is different than other rape. This sentence is unjust and it’s also dangerous.”
She said one of the crimes for which Turner was convicted, assault with intent to commit rape, is presumptively ineligible for probation. The judge determined that this was an unusual case, Dauber said, and that the interest of justice was best served by a grant of probation, “otherwise it’s a minimum sentence of two years.”
Prosecutors asked for six years, Dauber said, and given Turner’s youth and lack of a criminal record, she could understand a lesser sentence. But this was far too lenient, she said.
“We cannot send a message to potential perpetrators that they are outside the law,” she said.
Persky could not immediately be reached for comment.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” the 23-year-old victim read in court last week from her impact statement, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said.
The judge said the prison sentence would have a severe impact on Turner.
Turner’s father, Dan A. Turner, wrote a letter saying probation should have been the sentence, not jail. “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.” Brock Turner, a former Olympic hopeful, “will never be his happy-go-lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile,” his father wrote.
A separate effort was underway with an online petition, which had nearly 7,000 signatures Monday evening, calling for a review of the case and his decision, terming it, “a complete miscarriage of justice.” It read, in part,
… the lighter sentence was recommended and granted because probation officials said he had no prior criminal record, and they said they believed that he was genuinely remorseful, so they advised the court [to] go easy on him, according to prosecution and defense sentencing memos.
Turner, 20, was convicted of three felony charges in late March: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.
And he was given a six-month sentence.
The petition quotes from the statement the victim gave in court.