Stanford Rape Case Enters Court of Public Opinion With Dueling Online Statements

Statements by the victim and the defendant’s father are posted to the internet after the accused receives six-month sentence.

Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner had faced up to 14 years in prison after being convicted on three felony counts of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the Stanford campus after a fraternity party last year.

But the case captured the attention — and ire — of the internet last week after the presiding judge sentenced Turner to just six months. Public outrage over the sentencing, deemed too lenient by many, is now being fueled by dueling letters penned by people directly involved with both sides of the case.

In a statement defending his ruling, Judge Aaron Persky said he worried that more jail time would have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old Turner. Response to Persky’s statement was swift, with many turning to Twitter to voice their displeasure with what they saw as privilege taking precedent over justice:

The next day, BuzzFeed published the courtroom statement made by the 23-year-old victim. The 7,244-word statement, which describes the assault in heartbreaking detail, as well as how the attack and ensuing trial affected her life, went viral over the weekend, logging more than 6 million views by Monday evening.

“This is not a story of another drunk college hook­up with poor decision making,” the victim said in her statement. “Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused.

“To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging,” she continued. “It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.”

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Further outrage erupted Sunday when a statement read to the court by Dan Turner, Brock Turner’s father, was posted to Twitter by Michele Dauber, a law professor and sociologist at Stanford.

In his letter, the elder Turner argued that his son had already suffered “anxiety, fear and depression” as a result of his arrest and trial — “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

“I was always excited to buy him a big rib-eye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him,” Dan Turner wrote. “Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways.”

While the letter was clearly designed to elicit sympathy from the court, it found little of that on Twitter:

The county district attorney and local newspaper saved their harshest words for the defendant and his sentence. Santa Clara, California, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement that the sentence “did not fit the crime” and called the younger Turner a “predatory offender [who] has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth.”

An editorial by the San Jose Mercury News called the sentence “a slap on the wrist” and “a setback for the movement to take campus rape seriously.”

Persky, who could not be reached for comment, has since become the subject of arecall effort. An online petition at calls Persky “dangerous” and goes on to say that “those who abet rapists should not have a place in our judicial system.” The petition already has more than 36,000 signatures toward its goal of 50,000.



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