News

DA proposes mandatory prison sentence for sexual-assault crimes

Proposed legislation inspired by victim in Brock Turner case

UPDATE: On Tuesday, June 28, the California State Senate's Public Safety Committee approved this proposed bill. The district attorney released a statement afterwards, stating that the committee members brought "us closer to protecting the next Emily Doe against the next Brock Turner."

In the wake of widespread outrage over the three months former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner will spend in jail after sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated woman on campus last year, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced Wednesday proposed legislation that would eliminate the possibility of probation and make years in prison mandatory for anyone convicted of the same crime.

Rosen characterized the new bill as concrete change triggered by the international reach of the now-viral letter written by the woman in the case, Emily Doe, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Her letter "started a revolution" and demands real change, Rosen said at a press conference held on the steps of the Palo Alto courthouse where Turner was tried, convicted and sentenced. (Watch the press conference here).

"We've read her letter. Now let's give her back something beyond worldwide sympathy and anger," he said. "Let's give her a legacy that will send the next Brock Turner to prison. Let's give the next sexual-assault victim no reason to fear that her attacker will be walking around free after spending less time in jail than a college semester."

The proposed legislation would make the consequences for rape and sexual assault of a person who is unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication the same as for a conscious person. Under current law, a person convicted of sexually assaulting a conscious person is not eligible for probation, while someone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person can be granted probation, as Turner was.

Based on Turner's young age, lack of a prior criminal record and other mitigating factors, Santa Clara County Court Judge Aaron Persky established a legal exception to give Turner three year's probation, in addition to six months in county jail — which will be reduced to three with good behavior — and lifelong registration as a sex offender. Turner had faced between two and 14 years in state prison given the three felony crimes he was found guilty of: 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.

"Why, under the law, is a sexual assault of an unconscious woman less terrible than that of a conscious woman?" Rosen asked. "Is it less degrading? Is it less tragic, less traumatic? The fear and terror that accompanies the absence of memory of a sexual-assault victim should never be viewed as less serious than the fear and terror that a victim experiences during a recalled sexual assault."

The district attorney's legislation proposes attaching a mandatory prison sentence of three, six or eight years to the sexual assault of an unconscious person. Probation would no longer be a possibility, and it would be up to the judge's discretion to weigh mitigating factors like previous criminal history and age to decide on a sentence within that range of three to eight years, Rosen said.

"This means that a judge can't look at relative youth, nominal criminal history and means -- characteristics shared by many college students -- as mitigating factors and give probation and a slap on the wrist to campus rapists," he said.

The proposed bill, AB2888, is being co-sponsored by California Assemblymen Evan Low, D-San Jose, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa, state Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and a "growing number of legislators," Rosen said. He called on other California legislators to join in support.

In a statement, Dodd said he was "deeply disturbed" by Turner's sentence and that the proposed legislation will help prevent "such lax sentencing" in the future.

"Letting a rapist off with probation and little jail time re-victimizes the victim, dissuades other victims from coming forward and sends the message that sexual assault is no big deal," he said.

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci, who prosecuted the Turner case, will attend hearings in Sacramento next week to testify for the bill, Rosen said.

The legislation, Rosen said, is reflective of a new, growing awareness around sexual assault.

"The reason that this law is important is it reflects a raising of our consciousness as a society," he said. "What this law reflects is saying that sexually assaulting an unconscious person is as serious as sexually assaulting a conscious person and there should be no distinction between those because rape is rape.

"For a long time -- let's be honest, for decades -- what happened on college campuses on Saturday nights was overwhelmingly swept under the rug. I think this legislation that we are proposing is a positive step to recognize the awareness that we have about sexual assault, something that will help to empower sexual-assault victims and survivors, something that will deter criminals and perpetrators, and something that we hope changes peoples' views about what to do in situations like this," Rosen added.

In response to a question from the media, Rosen said he continues to disagree with Persky's sentencing decision but does not believe he should be removed from the bench. After millions of people across the country signed multiple online petitions calling for his removal, Stanford law professor and sexual-assault reform advocate Michele Dauber launched an official recall campaign, backed by the Progressive Women of Silicon Valley PAC.

Rosen did, however, remove Persky from an unrelated sexual-assault case last week, stating that "we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing." He described this move as "rare," only happening four or five times a year at most.

Dauber said in an interview Wednesday that she agreed with this decision given the fact that Persky's decision in the Turner case "reflected bias and was an abuse of discretion."

"Under California constitution, the correct and lawful and appropriate way to handle that is by taking it to the voters," she said.

In the Turner case, Persky "gave the wrong sentence but he had the legal right to give it," Rosen said Wednesday.

"While I support judicial independence -- that's an important value -- accountability is also an important value," he added in response to a question about the recall effort.

He said his office would continue to look carefully at every case that comes before Persky, as they do for every judge.

Doe, Rosen said, supports the proposed legislation. He devoted part of his statement to reading words from her impact statement: "We should not create a culture that suggests that we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault need to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative."

"Emily Doe sat down and wrote a letter that started an international dialogue," Rosen said. "She showed us the need for change. Now, what are we going to do? It's on us."

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage related to the Brock Turner case. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that the proposed legislation would apply to those convicted of rape or sexual assault of someone who is either unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication. The story originally stated that it would apply to those convicted of rape or sexual assault of a person who is unconscious and intoxicated.

Comments

36 people like this
Posted by Recall Aaron Persky
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Thank you Jeff Rosen. But it shouldn't take a law to make it obvious that sexual assault of an unconscious woman deserves more than 3 months in county jail. Persky has got to go.


3 people like this
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2016 at 1:01 pm

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2016 at 1:12 pm

And what happens if and when we get it wrong?

What happens when a vindictive young woman has second thoughts about what she did last night quite willingly?

What happens when a rejected fan decides to get even with a celebrity?

What happens if an 18 year old is caught having sex with a minor who may be only a few months younger and a willing participant?

I agree that sexual assault is always wrong, but how can we be sure that an assault is actually an assault?

How can we prevent something similar to what has happened to Cliff Richard in the UK from happening here? Web Link


37 people like this
Posted by Steve White
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm

I was asking the only hard questions, I think at that the Press Conference:

1. Is Jeff Rosen seeking higher office? He did not entirely deny it, I point out. In reality, he can get Kamala Harris' seat when she goes from Attorney General to US Senate, if he plays this right.

2. Why, if he is neutral on the recall (but now I think he's made it clear he's in favor of it with the coy remarks about ballots being secret) does he not tell people Persky was just folloing Probation recommendations (by the way, Rosen sais he heard that was what Persky does - even in a big DA's office like this one, I think he's likely known the habits oif all the judges on serious felony cases for a long time. Liklely knows, or can ask the local DDA what each Probation officer is likely to recommend, for that matter. There may have been a setup here.

3. One I missed, did not ask - if "rubber stanmping" by judges is bad, as you said it was in regard to Perksy following probation recommendations, why are you advocating a law which will force more judges to "rubber stamp" mandatory minimum sentences.

4. I had the last queston - isn't it true that, instead of removing discretion from judges so there are mandatory minimum sentences, won't this law actually put all discretion in DA"s hands - because they can always decide to the the defendant plead guilty to a lesser chare - in other words, this law means much more power for DA's, much less to judges - an erosion of judicial independence in an of itself.


31 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Midlander is a registered user.

I understand the dissatisfaction with the Brock Turner sentencing.

But I really, really, don't think its a good idea to make significant legal changes "in the heat of the moment" based on one specific case.

If the legislature really thinks the problem here is with the law (rather than with the actions of one particular judge), then pause, come back in a few months, study a broad range of cases and decide what to do. Don't legislate in haste.

I'm also very reluctant to remove all discretion from judges in sentencing. This can lead to real injustices when unexpected situations come up that weren't envisaged when a law was written. Perhaps there needs instead to be some way for prosecutors to appeal unusually light sentences (ones below the normal guidelines), which might alleviate the concerns around the Turner sentence.


15 people like this
Posted by Steve White
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm

I should point out Rosen left at the point I asked about how, really, the new law would not guareantee all rapists got 3 years in prison, what it would do is put the discretion in the hands of the DA, who can always charge a defendant with a crime which carries a mandatory minimum, but then as a plea bargain reduce it.

In other words, a DA is using public disapproval of a judge to whittle away some power from judges, generally, and give that power to DAs instead.


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2016 at 2:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I support this initiative, but first we absolutely must change the definition of rape in California. Any non consensual penetration of a person should be considered as rape. Using a digit or an object is no different from using a penies. After we change the definition of rape, there should be mandatory sentences for rape that are much more severe than what we have now. In my opinion, rape should mandate state prison sentences only slightly less severe from second degree murder, and in the case of a gang rape and rapes in which a weapon was used to threaten the victim, a life sentence should be mandatory.


19 people like this
Posted by Persky must go
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm

@Resident, I think you're right. Probably sentencing should only happen after a trial has been held and a jury has convicted. Only then can we be sure enough to impose any punishment.


4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2016 at 3:37 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

I thought we were against mandatory minimum sentences and limiting a judge's discretion in enlightened northern california?


Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North

on Jun 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm


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17 people like this
Posted by How About Some Truth?
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm

It's amazing to see how many people on this discussion board are horrified -- HORRIFIED! -- at any notion of harsher sentences being levied against those convicted of sexual assault.

Then again, there may be a reason for this outrage. After all, the offender in question is a young, white, upper-middle-class male from a good neighborhood who was a Stanford athlete. Had the offender been a young black male, from a less prestigious neighborhood (read "ghetto"), and had been a member of the Stanford football/basketball team, would there have been a similar reaction to the offender receiving a similar sentence? In my opinion, not only would there have been a greater public reaction -- there would have been cries of outrage from the very same people that now defend Brock Turner, and are asking for leniency in such cases.

Consider that, people.


9 people like this
Posted by Oscar
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2016 at 4:48 pm

This initiative will not work. Look at Oregon's Measure 11 dictating Mandatory Minimum Sentences for over a dozen crimes. The judges have lost all power. Their prison populations have literally doubled. Not that I favor Persky's decision, but voters need to look at the whole picture.

And while we're proposing these initiatives, why not eliminate protecting the "victim"'s identity in the media. Turner has been blasted. She remains nameless [portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by How About Some Truth?
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2016 at 5:31 pm

I'm saying this as a parent of boys. Of course we have had discussions with our boys. Of course we are not saying that Turner was not guilty. But let's look at a hypothetical "he said/she said" case that may occur in the future. Let's say that the young woman in question is discredited by evidence. Let's say that her identity is still protected but the young man who has been publicly identified and been the subject of media scrutiny and public outrage, is found not guilty. What happens then when his name is all over the internet, his future is ruined and the not guilty verdict almost ignored in public opinion?

I am worried. I am worried about how a possible future young man could have his future ruined by a young woman making a hasty call of rape and then recants which does happen. She is then still protected by anonymity, but the young man's reputation has been ruined. I think that we have to seriously question the fairness of a situation where she can remain anonymous but he has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.

I am not saying that victims have to be named. I am not saying that someone recanting a rape claim should be either publicly named or pay some type of consequences. But there is a case that could be argued in this to defend the accused's identity until such time as he has been found guilty.


10 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2016 at 6:14 pm

No, Resident, that's not how it works, and it shouldn't work that way. The public has a right to know the identity of the accused, and it being public record must not change.


15 people like this
Posted by Vicki Henry
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2016 at 6:43 pm

I need to ask a question here. What about Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped, lived in a tent in the back yard, bore two children by a registrant with his wife living at the same residence for almost two decades before being found....what about Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped and raped every day for 9 months till she was found? Rape is rape and these two ladies have chosen to be survivors.

The situation currently in the limelight is there and will remain so because it is on Congress and Senator Claire McCaskill's radar. It is considered dismissive to say this, as we all know and graduates brag about, the college party culture. What happened at Stanford was the fault of both the male and female for several reasons.

We are already known as the incarceration nation...we have 5% of the world's population AND 25% of the world's incarcerated. Turner's life is over as he will be on the registry for the rest of his life.

According to the NCMEC map (Web Link) , there are over 843,680 men, women and children (as young as 8 and 10 in some states) required to register and the "crimes" range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, incest, mooning, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive OR suggestive images of anyone 18 years old or younger, playing doctor, prostitution, solicitation, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, rape, endangering the welfare of a child, the old bate-n-switch internet stings and many others.

If you multiply the number on the registry by 2 or 3 family members you can clearly see there are well over 3 million wives, children, moms, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers and other family members who experience the collateral damage of being murdered, harassed, threatened, children beaten, have signs placed in their yards, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, asked to leave their churches and other organizations, children passed over for educational opportunities, have flyers distributed around their neighborhood, wives lose their jobs when someone learns they are married to a registrant....all these things occur when these people try to hold their family together and provide the three things that professionals state are needed for successful re-integration; a job, a place to live and a good support system. Residency restrictions, ranging from 500 ft to 2,500 ft are ludicrous just like being barred from homeless shelters.
Women Against Registry


21 people like this
Posted by Rape deniers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Vicki Henry is a well-known activist against sex offender registries. Web Link

Some of their more moderate points make sense. Some sex offenders can be rehabilitated and maybe should be given a chance to show that they don't need to be on a registry. But why this line? "What happened at Stanford was the fault of both the male and female for several reasons." This is pure victim-blaming, and really undercuts the argument.

Of course, the whole post is pretty incoherent and rambling.


Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jun 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2016 at 7:13 am

On sex-related matters, I wonder how Jeffrey Rosen would've dealt with Bill Clinton's perjury before a grand jury back in 1998. Harshly, if I correctly understand his tone in this new proposal.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2016 at 10:54 am

Bill Clinton has consensual sex with an adult woman and was found guilty of lying about it, NOT of rape or any other sex crime.

Many other presidents also had affairs but that didn't matter to the GOP hypocrites, all of whom were found to also be adulterers. And one of main accusers Dennis Hassert just entered prison for trying to bribe and silence his victims, all of whom were under-age boys.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Let's get real about politics
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

Let's get real about politics is a registered user.

Has anyone asked Jeff Rosen what plea deal they offered Brock Turner before going to trial? [Portion removed.] Seems a little hypocritical to now be using this situation to manipulate the sentencing OR to criticize the judge. But then, that's politics. Too bad they are trying to bring the judicial branch into it - our system is set up to keep judges neutral.

Wonder what the DA's office would be proposing as mandatory sentencing if Brock had agreed to their offer...


Like this comment
Posted by Cannot recall just yet
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Recall is not legally available in the last six months of a term. So, any real recall petition against Judge Persky will need to wait for the start of his next term. As to DA Rosen, most DAs in major counties dream of becoming the state Attorney General. Current CA AG Kamela Harris will soon be U.S. Senator Kamela Harris. The State Senate, if I recall correctly, would then fill the vacancy. But I think Rosen is just trying to do his current job - which does extend to proposing legislation.


7 people like this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2016 at 12:41 pm


Thanks for your comment, Mr. Online Name.

For your information, Bill Clinton was convicted of perjury in a matter to related to the Paula Jones case in which she accused Clinton of sexual harassment -- she claimed that Mr. Clinton propositioned her and then exposed himself in her presence. I would hardly call that, as you put it, "consensual sex." (You must be thinking of Monica Lewinsky.)

Clinton lied during his deposition. He was fined and disbarred (by the state of Arkansas). He was also impeached by the House, but acquitted by the Senate.


8 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm

casey is a registered user.

I understand the outrage over how this privileged college student was treated with kid gloves, but don't fool yourself. We've all seen this show before and know that mandatory prison sentences will end up disproportionately affecting minority defendants. That's just how it always works.


14 people like this
Posted by What's It Like?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm

In the aftermath of being stalked and raped in college, roommates and other dorm dwellers asked me what it was like to be raped....as if it had been a thrilling, enjoyable experience. No one asked me how my broken nose or rope burns or bruises felt, or how I was sleeping.

My attacker was never caught, so there was no trial, no closure.

But in terms of "how it felt", after I tried to fight him off and he punched my nose to subdue me, then tied my feet and hands, I felt nothing thrilling or pleasurable. I was bleeding heavily, couldn't breathe, was terrified that I would be murdered, or if I survived, would never be found.
I felt violated physically and emotionally, by an unwanted presence inside me, nauseated by a combination of fear and revulsion. I felt tainted, angry, ashamed, and for months after, I wanted to withdraw from public and hide.

There was nothing to enjoy: pain, more pain, blood, dirt, even genital pain and bruising.

Does any judge, attorney, or juror EVER ask the rape or sexual assault victim about the pain and disgust she felt?


6 people like this
Posted by lookbeyondwhatUC
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2016 at 2:30 pm

lookbeyondwhatUC is a registered user.

[Post removed.]



4 people like this
Posted by Theatrics
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by More smears from rapists
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2016 at 3:15 pm

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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