Breaking Down the Stanford Rape Case: Everything You Need to Know
The major points from the viral story
Over the past week, the Stanford rape case has opened up conversation about sexual assault and its prosecution and punishment around the world. Here are the details of the controversial case:
On the evening of January 17, 2015, a University of California, Santa Barbara graduate attended a frat party at Stanford University with her younger sister. In a 12-page letter that she read in court, she said she “drank liquor too fast, not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college,” and also said she blacked out. According to a police incident report obtained by PEOPLE, deputies responded to reports of an unconscious female in a “field area” next to the fraternity. Witnesses told deputies that a male subject had possibly sexually assaulted the female. The male subject was identified as then freshman Brock Turner, 20, who was arrested for attempted rape.
Two Stanford grad students, Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, were identified as the individuals who alerted police. Jonsson tackled Turner and held him on the ground until police arrived, according to the incident report. “I asked what was going on,” a responding officer wrote in the report, “and Jonsson said, ‘We found him on top of the girl Turner remained silent.”
The case went to trial last week, at the beginning of June 2016. Turner was found guilty on three counts: intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person.
The Charges – and the Explanation
Prosecutors asked that Turner be sentenced to six years in prison, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. “This sentence is more reflective of the seriousness of the case and it is more uniform with similar sexual assault cases in our County that result in convictions after trial,” the sentencing document states. “By sentencing the Defendant to a substantial prison term, this Court will send a message to him, Jane Doe [the victim], and the greater community that sexually violating a woman is never acceptable, especially when she is intoxicated.”
In the defendant’s sentencing memorandum obtained by PEOPLE, Turner’s attorney requested that Turner be put on probation for three to five years, order him to serve a 4-month county jail sentence and “impose the conditions of probation recommended by the probation department.”
Judge Aaron Persky, a Stanford University alum who coached men’s lacrosse there, sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years probation. In his sentencing recommendation, Persky said, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”
The victim addressed Turner at the trial, in a letter that has since been published by multiple major news outlets, including PEOPLE. In the letter that has since gone viral, she told him: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today. The damage is done; no one can undo it.” Turner’s friends and supporters wrote letters that have since been made public, vouching for his character. Another letter that has gone viral is one written by Turner’s father, Dan: “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.”
Nearly 2 million people have signed a petition to remove Judge Persky from the bench and prospective jurors are boycotting his court. Public Defender Molly O’Neal told the Mercury News she was “appalled at the venom directed at Persky. “The sentence was totally fair, not out of line, given his lack of a criminal record,” she said to the Mercury News
Another letter from the trial was released, this time from a childhood friend of Turner’s, Leslie Rasmussen, defending him, calling him a “sweetheart” and a “very smart kid.” Her letter also received a fair amount of backlash. One line in particular was especially talked about: “But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn t always because people are rapists.” Rasmussen, who is a musician, has had multiple gigs cancelled since the letter was made public.
Mug Shot and Media Coverage Questions
When stories about Turner appeared with his swim team photo, questions of fairness in reporting the athlete’s sexual assault charges were raised. The Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department released his two mugshots, including one on the day of his sentencing.
Turner’s Letter to the Judge
Turner’s own letter to the judge was made public on Wednesday. He said that he is “completely consumed” by his “poor judgment and ill thought actions.” “I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics,” he wrote. “I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life.”
“I am the sole proprietor of what happened on the night that these people s lives were changed forever. I would give anything to change what happened that night. I can never forgive myself for imposing trauma and pain on [redacted].”
The Vice President’s Support of the Victim
Vice President Joe Biden, an advocate for sexual assault and rape prevention, penned an open letter to the victim, calling her a warrior and saying that her letter has given fellow victims strength and helped to “change the world for the better.” He wrote: “I am in awe of your courage for speaking out – for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. And I am filled with furious anger – both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.”
The Sentence Reduction
According to reports from multiple media outlets, including The Washington Post, Turner is scheduled to be released from jail on Sept. 2, three months after he was placed in Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, California.
On Friday, June 16, it was announced that USA Swimming has banned Turner for life. He has not been a member of the organization since 2014, when his membership expired. If he were to apply again, however, the governing body said he would “not be eligible” to be readmitted.