A former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman was sentenced to six months in jail, leading to widespread outcry.
Brock Turner, 20, was convicted by a jury in March of three felonies, 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.
Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford campus. He was stopped by two witnesses, a pair of Stanford students from Sweden who were bicycling by, who called out to him and then tackled him to the ground when he ran away, holding him until police arrived.
He faced up to 14 years in prison, but Judge Aaron Persky decided on a sentence many consider too lenient.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Turner, of Ohio, was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail to begin his sentence, and could be released after just three months, the prosecutor says. Turner plans to appeal the conviction.
“The punishment does not fit the crime,” the District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “The predatory offender has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth. The sentence does not factor in the true seriousness of this sexual assault, or the victim’s ongoing trauma. Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape. Rape is rape. And I will prosecute it as such.”
Turner will also serve three years of probation and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Woman Turner Sexually Assaulted Said in a Powerful 13-Page Statement He ‘Dragged Me Through This Hell’
The victim read a powerful 13-page statement to the court during Brock Turner’s sentencing, calling out the light punishment Turner was receiving and saying he had left her “devastated.”
She also said he “dragged me through this hell with you,” through a year-long process that culminated with a trial.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today. The damage is done, no one can undo it,” she said. “And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.”
The woman also thanked the two bicyclists who saved her, and addressed other sexual assault victims,
“On nights when you feel alone, I am with you,” she said. “When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”
You can read the full statement by the victim at the link below:
2. The Prosecutor in the Case Said Turner ‘May Not Look Like a Rapist, But He Is the Face of Campus Sexual Assault’
The prosecutor in the case, who the victim called her “idol” for fighting “tirelessly” and never doubting her, gave a strong closing argument during Turner’s trial.
“He may not look like a rapist,” Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “but he is the face of campus sexual assault.”
After Turner was found guilty, District Attorney Jeff Rosen told reporters, “Drunk means no. Passed out means no.”
The judge in the case, Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, has come under fire for the sentence he handed down. The prosecution had asked for six years in state prison, while the probation department recommended a sentence of less than one year in county jail.
Many have now called for Persky to be removed from the bench.
Persky said in court that Turner had “poisoned” the lives of those involved, according to the Palo Alto Weekly.
“The question that I have to ask myself is … Is state prison for this defendant an antidote to that poison?” Perksy said. “Is incarceration in prison the right answer for the poisoning of (the woman’s) life?”
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Monday that while he disagrees with the judge’s sentence, he does not think he should be removed from the bench.
“While I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “I am so pleased that the victim’s powerful and true statements about the devastation of campus sexual assault are being heard across our nation. She has given voice to thousands of sexual assault survivors.”
Read more about Persky at the link below:
3. Turner Has Blamed Drinking for the Incident & Says He Never Intended to Rape the Victim
Turner has said excessive drinking was the cause of the incident, and said during his statement during sentencing that he plans to speak about the issues surrounding alcohol and drinking culture on college campuses.
The victim said Turner is misunderstanding the issue, writing:
You were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
The victim also said in her statement that campus drinking culture is not what he needs to speak out against:
That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.
4. His Father Says Prison Is a ‘Steep Price to Pay for 20 Minutes of Action’
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” the elder Turner wrote in the letter, which he also read aloud in court. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Read more about Turner’s parents at the link below:
Leslie Rasmussen, a longtime family friend, has also come under fire for her letter in support of Brock Turner. Her band, Good English, has had several shows cancelled because of the outrage directed toward her.
Read more about Rasmussen at the link below:
5. Turner Was an All-American Swimmer in High School & Was Kicked Out of Stanford After His Arrest
Turner was expelled from Stanford University after his arrest and conviction. He had been a freshman member of the university’s swim team.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Turner swam for the Dayton Raiders before being recruited for Stanford and was a three-time All-American high school swimmer at Oakwood High School.
He held the Ohio record for fastest time by a male 18 and under in the 800-meter freestyle, won high school state titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle, made the U.S. Junior National team, and participated in the 2012 Olympic trials.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Stanford as an Ivy League school.
This post has been updated since it was originally published in January 2015 to reflect the conviction and sentence in the case, along with the reaction to it.