Two separate petitions calling for the removal of the California judge who sentenced a Stanford University star swimmer to six months for a rape conviction are gathering steam. But the hundreds of thousands of signatures are unlikely to lead to his ouster.
In March, a jury found Brock Turner guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault, including assault with intent to rape, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. They stem from an incident on Jan 18 at about 1 a.m., when Turner was found by two graduate students on top of an unconscious intoxicated woman near a dumpster outside one of Stanford’s fraternities. The charges fall under the Justice Department’s definition of rape.
Turner faced up to 14 years in prison. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky said he erred on the side of leniency in the sentencing because of Turner’s age, lack of criminal record, academic achievements and high alcohol consumption of both parties on the night in question. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others,” said Persky, who also attended Stanford, where he played lacrosse.
The case has helped fuel the ongoing national debate over how universities and the justice system handle sexual assaults on college campuses. On Monday, a recall challenge was launched on Change.org to remove Persky from his position. At the time of publication, the petition had around 374,000 signatures. Another petition launched by women advocacy group Ultraviolet had 290,771 signatures.
But Judge Persky’s job doesn’t appear to be in danger. His re-election Tuesday was canceled because there was no opponent. He will most likely serve another six-year term.
Fueled by the social media storm around the case, two rival Facebook pages have been set up—one called “Brock Turner for 2016 Olympics” that argued Turner was treated unfairly, and a second, “Brock Turner for Prison 2016,” that pushed for a harsher prison sentence. “Brock Turner for 2016 Olympics” has since been taken down due to its unpopularity.
During the trial, Turner claimed that the 22-year-old woman willingly left the party with him and was “awake and conscious” throughout their encounter.
Some people were outraged at a letter Turner’s father wrote to the judge before the sentencing. In the letter, which his father read aloud in court, he said that a full conviction is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of [his son’s] 20 plus years of life.” It was Turner’s first criminal offense.
The victim also read an emotional 7,400-word letter in court detailing her assault and the consequences of the attack. She said: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice.” The victim testified that she had no memory of the assault.