EDITORIAL: Rape sentence smacks of privilege

York Dispatch
  • A former Stanford swimmer guilty of felony assault/intent to commit rape will serve little time.
  • That has sparked international outrage and prompted calls for the judge's ouster.
  • The 6-month sentence disregards the brutality of rape.
  • If Turner were not white and privileged, his sentence would likely be considerably harsher.
In this June 2, 2016, file photo, Brock Turner, right, makes his way into the Santa Clara Superior Courthouse in Palo Alto, California. A letter written by Turner's father was made public over the weekend by a Stanford law professor who wants the judge in the case removed from office because of Brock Turner's sentencing.


It’s a wholly appropriate word for what many have felt in the days following the lenient sentence a Stanford swimmer was given after being convicted of three felonies for assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

The outrage has garnered international attention and has resulted in a petition to recall the judge who gave Brock Turner six months behind bars.

Nationally, of every 100 sexual assaults, just 32 are reported to police, three are referred to prosecutors and two lead to a felony conviction and prison time, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network in Washington, D.C.

Is it any wonder? Why would most victims choose to trust a criminal justice system that routinely protects those with money, power and privilege while minimizing, disregarding and blaming minority and poor victims — and accused.

Turner, now 20, attacked the woman outside a Stanford fraternity party in January 2015. Two graduate students on bicycles, who saw Turner thrusting his body on top of an unconscious woman, intervened and apprehended the young man as he tried to flee, which led to his arrest.

It’s important to note that these students who came to the victim’s rescue recognized this encounter as the assault it was and stepped in to help. This is as unusual as it is commendable.

The case went to trial, and Turner — who left Stanford last year and has been banned from campus — was convicted in March of three felonies that carried a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison: 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 claims he believed the encounter was consensual.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen recommended six years in prison while the probation department proposed four to six months — a sentence, prosecutors wrote in a memo to the judge, that "reeks of the stigma that campus sexual assaults often receive" and "falls so short of the seriousness of this case that it should not even be objectively considered."

Not to mention that Turner’s father, Dan Turner, submitted a (now viral) letter to the court which said, in part, "His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve." Dan Turner wrote, "That's a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action in his 20-plus years of life."

Twenty minutes of action.

This past week, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky handed down a six-month sentence. He said he weighed Turner's character, lack of criminal history and remorsefulness.

We would like to add our voice to the growing chorus of those who believe this judge should be ousted. The sentencing smacks of privilege and a blatant disregard for the devastating consequences of rape.

If this defendant had been a minority from an impoverished community, with little education, fewer options and no athletic accolades, there are few — if any — courtrooms in this country in which six months and probation would have been the outcome.

The Associated Press contributed to this editorial.