Speaking outside the courthouse in Palo Alto near Stanford’s campus, the district attorney Jeff Rosen read from the victim’s emotional impact statement, which went viral earlier this month and sparked widespread debates about sexual violence on college campuses.
“We’ve read her letter. Now let’s give her back something beyond worldwide sympathy and anger” Rosen said. “Let’s give her a legacy that will send the next Brock Turner to prison.”
The legislation, which multiple northern California lawmakers are co-sponsoring, would make the penalties for Turner’s offenses the same as the punishments for assault involving a conscious victim – a minimum of three years in state prison.
“Sexually assaulting an unconscious person is as serious as sexually assaulting a conscious person and there should be no distinction,” Rosen said.
Turner, a 20-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, was convicted of three felonies for the 18 January 2015 sexual assault outside a fraternity by a dumpster. Two witnesses biking by intervened after they saw Turner “thrusting” on top of the motionless woman, according to police.
The minimum sentence Turner faced was two years in state prison, but the law allowed the judge, Aaron Persky, to give a lighter sentence if he believed it was an “unusual case where the interests of justice would best be served” by probation.
Persky chose a sentence of probation and six months in county jail, and Turner will only have to spend three months behind bars. In his controversial decision, the judge cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal record and said there was “less moral culpability” because he was intoxicated at the time.
Persky is now facing a recall campaign led by a Stanford professor, and lawmakers have called for an investigation. He was also removed from a similar sexual assault case, and a juror in the Turner case has since slammed Persky’s sentencing decision.
Rosen said he is not supporting the recall campaign. “I believe in judicial independence. The judge got it wrong in this case, but he had the right to give that sentence.”
Sajid Khan, a deputy public defender in Santa Clara county who published apetition in support of Persky, said he opposed Rosen’s bill on Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing, and it’s a slippery slope,” he said. “My concern is that it’s a one-size-fits-all type of punishment scheme that does not permit taking into account unique circumstances of a particular case and of a particular offender.”
Khan said he worried the legislation could pave the way for new bills that would increase prison time for other offenses.
“When we start to go down that path for mandatory minimums for any crime, we again perpetuate policies that result in mass incarceration.”