06 June, 2016
Many Americans are criticizing a six-month jail sentence given to a former Stanford University student for raping an unconscious woman.
Aaron Persky is a judge with the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California. He sentenced 20-year-old Brock Turner to six months in a county jail and three years of probation under the court's supervision.
Turner will also have to complete a sex-offender management program and register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
Government lawyers had asked for a six-year state prison sentence.
The woman Turner raped read an emotional statement in court before the sentencing. She described the painful details of being examined by medical workers after the attack.
The woman also described how the sexual assault hurt her emotionally.
"My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition," she said. Along with other emotions, she said, she became closed off, angry, tired and empty.
Her statement has "gone viral" – and is being shared all over the internet. News media are not identifying the victim, which is their policy in sexual assault cases.
Turner was a swimmer at Stanford, one of the nation's top universities.
Brock Turner's father, Dan A. Turner, also wrote to the court before the sentencing last week. The Washington Post reports that Dan Turner wrote a letter saying his son should receive probation, not jail time.
"That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life," the father wrote. "He will never be his happy go-lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile," he added.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen criticized the letter for calling the sexual assault "20 minutes of action." He also criticized Turner for not accepting responsibility for the crime.
"To this day, the defendant denies what he did," Rosen told The Washington Post. He added that Brock Turner "preyed upon" the woman and displayed violence.
After the sentencing last Thursday, Rosen released a statement, according to the Associated Press. "The punishment does not fit the crime," he said. "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."
Last March, Turner was found guilty of three felony sexual assault counts for the attack. It happened in January 2015. Two graduate students found Turner assaulting the unconscious woman. She was behind a trash container with only some of her clothes on.
Turner tried to flee, but the students grabbed him and held him down until police arrived and arrested him.
Both the victim and Turner had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limits, according to The San Jose Mercury News.
The victim remembered drinking alcohol, but not the attack. She writes that she remembered waking up at a hospital in San Jose. A police deputy told her she may have been a victim of a 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 her letter to Turner and Judge Persky that she read in the courtroom during the sentencing.
She said she wanted to take off her body, and leave it at the hospital.
In an editorial, the San Jose Mercury News called the six-month county jail sentence "a slap on the wrist."
I'm Anne Ball.
This report was based on reports from the Associated Press, the Washington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
What do you think about the punishment for the crime? What do you think of the victim's statement, and the father's response? Write to us in the Comments section and visit us on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
unconscious - adj. not aware of what is happening, not conscious
probation - n. supervision by a law enforcement official to make sure the person is obeying the law
convicted - adj. been found guilty of a crime
distort - v. to change something in bad way
prey - v. to hunt and hurt someone
steep - adj. very high
trauma - n. a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time
felony - n. a serious crime
slap on the wrist - phrase. very light punishment