A California judge’s decision to hand a six-month jail sentence to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus after a party is being decried as a slap on the wrist.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner, 20, to six months in county jail and three years’ probation after the woman who was assaulted read the court an emotional statement that has since gone viral.
Turner must also complete a sex offender management program and register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
In her statement, the woman described how the attack left her emotionally scarred.
"My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty," she said.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he was disappointment that the judge did not sentence Turner to prison.
"The punishment does not fit the crime," Rosen said in a statement after the sentence was announced Thursday. "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."
In his sentencing, Persky cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal history for his so-called lenient decision.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others,” Persky said.
Turner was found guilty in March of three felony sexual assault counts for the January 2015 attack, which was interrupted by two graduate students who saw Turner assaulting a partially clothed woman behind a dumpster after a fraternity party. Turner tried to flee the scene but was pinned down until police arrived and arrested him.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that Turner’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit. The three-time All American high school swimmer from Ohio withdrew from Stanford after the arrest.
The woman, who is not a Stanford student, told authorities she drank had about four shots of whisky before going to the party and then drank vodka there. The next thing she said she remembered was waking up at a San Jose hospital, where a deputy told her she might have been a victim of sexual assault.
"I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don't want my body anymore. I was terrified of it," the woman wrote in a letter to Turner and Judge Persky that she read in the courtroom during the sentencing. "I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else."
In an editorial, the San Jose Mercury News called the six-month county jail sentence "a slap on the wrist."
"Brock Turner's six-month jail term for sexual assault of an intoxicated, unconscious woman on the Stanford campus last year is a setback for the movement to take campus rape seriously," the newspaper said. "If Turner's slap on the wrist sentence is a setback, activists can take some comfort that the jurors at the trial in March saw what happened as a very serious crime."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.