In the months leading up to Brock Turner’s sentencing for sexually assaulting an intoxicated and unconscious woman at Stanford University, his friends and family members penned letters to the judge, urging him to consider a lighter sentence than the maximum 14-year prison term Turner was facing.
In March, Turner was found guilty of three felonies — including assault with the intent to commit rape.
But in letters to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, longtime friends portrayed Turner as an All-American swimmer who was dedicated and determined to achieve success; family members described him as a shy and sensitive college kid who undoubtedly made a life-altering mistake.
“I need you to know that my younger brother is not the predatory and unremorseful assailant that he was made out to be,” his older sister, Caroline Turner, wrote. “Brock is a kind, quiet, talented, hard-working, deeply caring, sensitive, peculiar, inquisitive, and most importantly, vulnerable young man.”
The case caught fire last week when his 23-year-old victim, who has not been identified, read her own letter to Turner in court.
“I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison,” she wrote. “I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft time-out, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, and of the consequences of the pain I have been forced to endure.
“I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.”
In a widely reported letter, Turner’s father told the judge that prison time was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years of probation, and ordered him to register as a sex offender — a perceived soft sentence that drew fury from many now calling for the judge’s removal.
Here are excepts from some of the letters Persky received before making his decision, which were obtained by The Washington Post and other news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian:
Caroline Turner, Turner’s sister
In her letter, Turner’s sister talked about how she had watched him “become a shell of his former self” since the sexual assault on Jan. 18, 2015.
When he first returned from California a few days after the incident, I remember Brock needing to be constantly touched and held. He was suffering immensely and couldn’t sleep alone, much like me when I was a young child. Since January of last year, I have gotten to know the new Brock: I have witnessed him carry the stigma of being accused of rape and sexual assault and the social, professional, and cultural effects that he has experienced; l have witnessed his struggle to even get out of bed. This is in stark contrast to the young man my brother used to be, always energetically pursuing his goals. The aftermath of this paradigm shift in his life has been incredibly difficult for me to observe, but Brock did the best he could to persevere through the situation.
A series of alcohol-fueled decisions that he made within an hour timespan will define him for the rest of his life. Goodbye to NCAA championships. Goodbye to the Olympics. Goodbye to becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Goodbye to life as he knew it.
Kelly Hopkins, Turner’s aunt
Turner’s aunt, who said she is a former civil servant with the Air Force, told the judge about Turner’s childhood, growing up in Dayton, Ohio.
Our immediate family had a unique dynamic. My sister Carleen and I had a brother, named Scott, who was a special person. Scott was brain damaged at birth, and was considered to be mentally retarded. He could not talk (besides saying the word “bye bye” because he loved to go for car rides), walk, bathe, shave, or brush his own teeth. He could not go to the bathroom by himself, dress himself, read or write. He functioned at the level of a 2 year old. He also suffered from cerebral palsy, epilepsy which was never controlled, and scoliosis. He required 24 hour care, and lived with my parents until his unexpected death. I provide these details about my brother because growing up in this kind of environment imprints on your brain, heart, and soul about how to value others and treat them with respect.
Family was always the most important support system we had.
Tommy Cope, childhood friend
Cope said he met Turner through a local swim team and has “always looked up to him.”
I honestly do not know what happened to Brock when he went to college that led to this terrible decision with which he is dealing with the consequences of now. All of his life leading up to this, all of his hard work in everything he has done, his striving for greatness, now lays in pieces. When I first saw the news over a year ago, all I could think to myself was, “oh Brock … what have you done?” Brock is a mild-mannered kid with a good heart in a terrible, terrible situation. I hope that you can look past the image painted of him by this trial and see the real Brock Turner. I have spent many good years with him, and have never known him to have a malevolent bone in his body. I know that he is filled with pain. His sport, his education, his goals have already been taken from him. Please, Honorable Judge Aaron Persky, consider these things as you review Brock’s case.
Richard and Carolyn Bradfield, Turner’s grandparents
The couple told the judge they were unable to attend Turner’s trial because of medical concerns and were disheartened that because they are “on a fixed income” they could not provide financial help to Turner’s parents.
When they heard about the jury’s verdict, they said, they were distraught.
We were shocked, and stunned by the outcome and left to the only thing we could do — hold each other and cry. We still are in disbelief. Brock is the only person being held accountable for the actions of other irresponsible adults. He raised a right hand, swore an oath and told the truth.
Brock is a good 20 year old young man who has never been in trouble. Brock has essentially served a 14 month jail sentence while awaiting trial. We beg the court to grant time served and no additional time to our grandson, Brock Turner.
Margaret Quinn, retired federal prosecutor and friend
Quinn, who said she has known Turner’s family for 15 years, wrote that “the collateral consequences of a conviction are staggering.”
It is evident, especially within the last few years, that sexual misconduct is a growing concern on college campuses; it is a very real problem. This rising concern has encouraged many college campuses to put sexual misconduct at the forefront of the discussion table. More and more universities are implementing mandatory workshops aimed at educating incoming freshman on the importance of consensual sex, effective communication between partners, healthy relationships, and safe drinking practices on college campuses. These educational programs for incoming students are effective; a comprehensive approach to educating students on the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and sexual misconduct is the most effective way to combat these issues that are all too relevant on college campuses.
If the Court saw fit, perhaps Brock could better serve his future development and that of other young men, in counselling them, speaking to them, warning them about the devastating consequences of a single decision. Brock could have the unique opportunity to mentor students on this complex issue that young people from all over the country will undoubtedly face in their lifetime.
I met with Brock and his family last week. They are devastated. Brock himself is despondent; he is broken. There is no doubt Brock made a mistake that night — he made a mistake in drinking excessively to the point where he could not fully appreciate that his female acquaintance was so intoxicated. I know Brock did not go to that party intending to hurt, or entice, or overpower anyone. That is not his nature. It never has been. This unfortunate series of events has left Brock in despair. Rather than strip him of any chance to rectify this situation, I hope his punishment enables him to educate young people on the importance of safe alcohol consumption, and effective communication between two consenting individuals.
I believe a prison term will serve no useful purpose in Brock’s case.
Andrew Cole-Goins, childhood friend
Cole-Goins said he grew up with Turner and that Turner’s accomplishments were “only a small part of what I remember Brock Turner by.”
I can say with full integrity, honesty, and assurance that Brock Turner is not a rapist nor is he a predator of any kind. I’ve seen him interact with women and I’ve seen him interact with men and never have I seen anything concerning. Brock Turner is a great young man whose morals are strong and would never do something like he was convicted of.
Turner’s victim wrote in her impact statement that she wants society to comprehend the “seriousness of rape.”
“The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative,” she wrote. “The fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”
She said she was “severely disappointed” that after Turner was convicted of sexual assault he mainly just expressed remorse for drinking too much alcohol.
“It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of promiscuity,” she wrote. “By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.
She added: “Throughout incarceration I hope he is provided with appropriate therapy and resources to rebuild his life. I request that he educates himself about the issue of campus sexual assault. I hope he accepts proper punishment and pushes himself to reenter society as a better person.”
This story has been updated.