The Guardian on Tuesday published a full transcript (read it here) from Turner’s sentencing hearing earlier this month, in which Persky explains his reasoning for the sentence. The main point? Persky believed Turner’s side of the story, that the victim gave Turner consent to have sexual contact with her.
“I mean, I take him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events," Persky said. “The jury, obviously, found it not to be the sequence of events.”
Persky said determining the sentence was a “difficult decision.” He said he considered denying Turner probation because of the “physical and devastating emotional injury” of the victim.
Persky took into consideration, among other factors, that Turner was remorseful, was not previously convicted of any crimes, was young, was not armed during the crime, that he would comply with the terms of probation, and he would not be a danger to others if not imprisoned. He said the role alcohol played in the assault is “not an excuse” but “is a factor that, when trying to assess moral culpability in this situation, is mitigating.” He said a prison sentence would have “a severe impact” and “adverse collateral consequences” on Turner.
Turner was convicted in March on three felony counts for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in January 2015 outside of a Stanford fraternity party where they had been drinking heavily. Two graduate students were biking on campus when they spotted Turner on top of the victim, who did not appear to be moving. Turner ran when the men approached, and one of them chased him and tackled him to the ground while police was called.
Turner’s sentence stunned many who read the victim’s harrowing account. While Turner is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, a sentence of six months—which could be reduced to three months for good behavior—seemed far too lenient for the crimes: 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.
Sexual-assault advocates pointed to the Stanford case as a prime example for why so many women choose not to report sexual assaults to police or press charges against their rapists and testify against them. Others attributed the judge’s leniency to Turner’s appearance and background; a white, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed swimmer with Olympic potential, Turner didn’t look like a rapist. There was much debate whether the crimes Turner committed amounted to rape with a capital R. While the legal definition of rape varies by state, in California it is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse, including sexual penetration, no matter how slight” under several circumstances, including “where a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused.” The FBI goes even further, defining rape as the “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The crimes for which Turner was convicted are in line with these definitions.