Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced on Thursday former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner to six months in county jail and three years of probation for the sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated woman, acknowledging the "devastation" the woman has suffered yet also the "severe" impact imprisonment would have on Turner.
Positive character letters written on behalf of Turner from his family members and friends, Turner's lack of a prior record and the role that alcohol played in the assault factored into Persky's decision to impose a lighter sentence than the prosecution had asked for, he explained.
Persky said that the difficult criminal proceeding compounded by intense media attention has "poisoned" the lives of those involved.
"The question that I have to ask myself is ... Is state prison for this defendant an antidote to that poison?" Perksy said. "Is incarceration in prison the right answer for the poisoning of (the woman's) life?"
His conclusion was that it is not.
"Justice would best be served," he said, with probation.
Turner, now 20, was a freshman at Stanford and All-American swimmer on Jan. 18, 2015, when two graduate students found him on top of an unresponsive, partly dressed young woman lying behind a Dumpster outside a fraternity house on campus. He pleaded not guilty to the charges he faced and testified during an three-week trial in March that the woman verbally, willingly consented to the sexual activity they engaged in and was conscious throughout. Both were intoxicated at the time and did not know each other previously.
A jury eventually found Turner guilty of three felonies: assault with the 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 young woman, Emily Doe, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, remained unconscious and unresponsive until she awoke several hours later at a hospital in San Jose, with no memory of the assault. Now 23, she is a college graduate who did not attend Stanford.
In court on Thursday, Doe read an abbreviated version of a 12-page victim impact statement she submitted to Persky that described in detail the harm Turner inflicted on her, which she called "irreversible."
"Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment," she said. "My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice -- until today."
She urged Persky to deny Turner probation and send him to state prison, arguing that "the fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class."
In a short statement, Turner apologized for the "pain" he caused Doe, her family and friends. The entire ordeal, he said, "makes me want to live the rest of my life to change it." He said he wants to teach and educate college students on the dangers of alcohol.
His father, Dan Turner, said Turner has expressed "true remorse."
Describing his son's academic and athletic achievements from a young age through his acceptance to Stanford, his father told Persky: "His life will never be the one he dreamed about."
He, too, said his son is "totally committed to educating others on the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity" in order to help "break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results."
Turner was remanded following the sentencing. He will have to register as a sex offender for life, complete a sex-offender management program and not consume alcohol, among other terms of his probation.
Turner plans to appeal his conviction. Dennis Riordan, a well-known San Francisco appellate attorney, was in court on Thursday and will represent Turner in the appeal.
Turner appeared in court with his parents, brother and sister, who hugged following Persky's decision.
Doe quickly left the courtroom with her parents, sister, boyfriend and friends, including one who had testified on her behalf during the trial.
Persky's sentencing followed a recommendation made by the county probation department to make an exception and find unusual circumstances in this case given various factors, including that Turner is young, has no significant criminal record and expressed remorse for his actions.
Turner's attorney, Michael Armstrong, had requested in a presentencing memo that Turner receive a four-month sentence in county jail and three to five years of probation. Turner is a "fundamentally good young man from a good family" who "made bad choices during his time at Stanford of about four months, especially related to alcohol," Armstrong wrote.
Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci, by contrast, argued in her presentencing memo that Turner's actions that evening on campus were "more akin to a predator who is searching for prey."
She urged Persky to sentence Turner to six years in state prison, noting the "global ramifications" the case could have on Stanford and other college campuses across the nation where students and administrators are working to respond to sexual violence.
On Stanford's campus this week, more than 250 students signed a petition calling for a minimum two-year prison sentence for Turner, while one student urged leniency in an opinion piece published in student newspaper the Stanford Daily.
In statement given following the sentencing, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen called the sentence "unjust" and inappropriate given the seriousness of the crime.
"Ultimately, the fact that the defendant preyed upon an intoxicated stranger on a college campus should not be viewed as less serious than if he assaulted an intoxicated stranger in downtown Palo Alto," he said.
"Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape," he added. "Rape is rape. We will prosecute it the same."
Rosen noted that with credit for good behavior, Turner will be released from jail in three months.
The district attorney's office is organizing a symposium on campus sexual assault with leaders from Santa Clara County college and universities, including Stanford, for this fall. Rosen said he met just last week with some of these leaders and hopes the case will "still have some positive resonance."
"We will soon, I hope, come out with real reforms and a shared resolve to make our college campuses safer," Rosen said Thursday.
Read Emily Doe's full victim impact statement, released by the district attorney's office, here.
The Palo Alto Weekly has created Storify pages to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.