Newly released court documents shed light on a judge’s decision to give ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner what some have called a lenient sentence.
Turner, 20, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman he met during a fraternity party at Stanford University in January 2015. Despite facing a maximum of 14 years in prison and prosecutors asking for 10 years, Santa Clara Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in a county jail and three years’ probation.
Turner will likely serve half his sentence, pending good behaviour.
Many have decried the sentence as inappropriately light, a mere “slap on the wrist.” Turner, however, will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
According to a transcript provided by The Guardian, the victim’s statement, character references from friends and family, media scrutiny, and Turner’s lack of a criminal record contributed to Persky’s sentencing decision.
Before announcing the decision, Persky read from a statement made by the anonymous victim, referred to as Jane Doe. He acknowledged how the assault damaged her life — but some sections she wrote, in particular, resonated with Persky:
So, as she writes, ‘the damage is done,'” The role of the Court at sentencing is to essentially follow the road map that our system of criminal justice sets out for the Court in sentencing decisions. It’s not completely an unbridled discretion. It is constrained by factors that are contained in the Rules of Court. And so I’ve tried do that to the best of my ability. And my tentative decision is to grant probation, as recommended by the Adult Probation Department, with the defendant to serve six months in county jail and to comply with the recommendations of probation as contained in the report, as will be slightly modified.
Furthermore, Persky said the media scrutiny and the trial itself served as punishment to all involved and made him wonder what sentence could erase any of that. In the end, he believed a long prison sentence would only harm Turner, who lost his ability to compete at the Olympics, even more.
“I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life. And the impact statements that have been — or the, really, character letters that have been submitted do show a huge collateral consequence for Mr. Turner based on the conviction.”
As for the 39 separate character references, Persky pointed to one from a childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, that he found “just rings true.”
And, yeah, there were a lot of — a lot of character letters. And there are certain things that sort of stick out. And there is one character letter from Leslie Rasmussen, who — and there — there were a lot of them. And so some of them were more generalized — but she wrote that “Brock has been a peer of mine since elementary school,” and she talks about how she came to know him.
And then she writes, [as read] “If I had to choose one kid I graduated with to be in the position Brock is, it would never have been him. I could name off five others that I wouldn’t be surprised about.” And so, to me, that just rings true as to — it sort of corroborates the evidence of his character up until the night of this incident, which has been positive.
Many other character statements echoed similar disbelief that Turner found himself facing such charges. For his part, Turner largely blames Stanford’s “party culture.”
Persky has since faced scrutiny for the sentencing decision with a campaign to remove him from the bench. Earlier this week, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen took Persky off a new sexual assault case.
You can read Persky’s full words on The Guardian »
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