Stanford community slams sex assault sentence

eline Lee
Bay Area News Group

Palo Alto, Calif. — Stanford students, law professors and campus sexual assault activists are decrying what they call an injustice and dangerous precedent of a judge's decision to give a six-month jail sentence to a former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky on Thursday sentenced Brock Turner to six months in county jail, three years of probation and ordered him to register as a sex offender. With good behavior, Turner is expected to serve three months in jail.

The once-Olympic hopeful was arrested after two Stanford students bicycling by the Kappa Alpha fraternity saw him on the ground, thrusting his hips atop an unconscious, partially clothed woman. The students called police and chased down Turner.

"Though there were eyewitnesses and three felony convictions, the fact that the judge gave Turner such a light sentence completely undermines any form of accountability, and thereby motivates people to continue perpetuating and disbelieving survivors," Stanford student Stephanie Pham said in an email.

Turner faced up to 14 years in state prison for 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.

"This decision fails to uphold justice and protect the dignity of the survivor, putting the future safety and well-being of all students at risk," Pham added.

Pham and other members of the Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention plan to submit a petition to the university asking Stanford officials to publicly offer counseling and other supportive services to the victim.

The group also wants Stanford to "immediately and publicly apologize to the survivor based on the fact that the attack happened on Stanford's campus and express support for her bravery and suffering."

Stanford officials released a statement Monday in which they say there has been "a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford's role" and that the school did "everything within its power" to assure justice was served.

"Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking," the statement read. "In less than two weeks after the incident, Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus -- as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student."

The student groups' petition on reads: "While her story is unique, the outcome of the sentencing is one that happens much too often. If anything, the results of this case set the precedent that even when the legal system finds guilt, it does not provide the justice that survivors deserve."

Meanwhile, there are multiple petitions, with the backing of Stanford professor Michele Dauber, asking that Persky be recalled. One petition on had more than 111,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Persky ran unopposed in the 2010 election and won.

Twenty-five superior court judges, including Persky, are up for re-election in November. Because they are running unopposed, the judges will not appear on the primary ballot Tuesday.

Challengers can run for the six-year term as a write-in candidate by expressing such interest to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters by Aug. 17 by submitting a statement of candidacy and 600 valid signatures.

Write-in candidates also have to finish the nomination paperwork between Sept. 12 and Oct. 25 in order to qualify as a write-in candidate.

Write-in candidates' names do not appear on the November ballot.

Judge Persky found Turner's character, lack of criminal history and remorse enough to bypass a heavier penalty of six years in state prison requested by prosecutors.

In sentencing memos, prosecutors called Turner a "continued threat to the community" and asked for six years.

Probation department officials recommended six months in county jail, and Turner requested a four-month county jail term.

The maximum sentence Turner could have gotten was 14 years in state prison.

Because of the violent nature of the crime, Persky had to find that there were "unusual circumstances" for Turner to be eligible to serve time in county jail versus prison.

A BuzzFeed post of the statement the victim read in court to Turner had 5.4 million views as of Monday, four days after the sentencing.

Email Jacqueline Lee at or call her at 650-391-1334; follow her at