Former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner surely deserves six years in prison – the prosecutor’s recommendation – for the sexual assault he committed, not the six months in jail he received.
In fact, he may well deserve the 14 years that could have been imposed for three felonies.
Turner was convicted of using his fingers to sexually penetrate an unconscious young woman outside a Stanford fraternity party last year. Two passers-by prevented him from going further.
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In seeking a six-year term, prosecutors submitted a lengthy review of the case and stressed Penal Code Section 1170, which declares that “the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment.”
However, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, a former sex-crimes prosecutor himself, endorsed the county probation office’s recommendation for a brief county jail term. And with good jail behavior, Turner could be out in three months.
Persky cited Turner’s youth, his lack of a previous criminal record and his intoxication in issuing a slap on the wrist for what the Penal Code specifically lists as a crime so violent that it would not qualify for leniency under Gov. Jerry Brown’s new sentencing initiative.
More than a million persons, outraged by Persky’s decision, have emailed their support for his ouster. A number of politicians, particularly state legislators, have joined the chorus, demanding that Persky be recalled or removed from the bench by the Commission on Judicial Performance.
“This was an open-and-shut case, and the judge gave him six months,” Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman said as she and other legislators issued a letter demanding Persky’s resignation. On Monday, the state Senate’s women took turns on the Senate floor reading passages of a 12-page presentence letter that Turner’s victim had submitted.
There is, however, a twist to the situation that would be ironic were it not so serious.
Eggman and the other Assembly Democrats who joined her Friday in the denunciation of Persky’s leniency had voted just two weeks earlier for a bill that would remove “punishment” from the Penal Code, substitute “sentencing” and declare that “public safety (is) achieved through accountability, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.”
Assembly Bill 2590, approved by the Assembly on a 47-24 vote, is being carried by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, one of those demanding that Persky step down. Merely punishing miscreants, Weber said, “has failed” and the state should embrace “restorative justice” as “an alternative to punishment.”
Before the vote, however, Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, uttered some opposition words that were eerily prescient.
“If I murder you, I can’t restore anything. If I rape you, I can’t restore anything,” Wagner declared. “There are people who need to be punished.”
Weber’s spokesman: “Her signing onto the letter demonstrates … that she is not averse to incarceration as a component of accountability, but that punishment should not be the sole purpose of sentencing and should be commensurate with sentences of others who have committed similar acts.”