Legislation proposed by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen in the wake of controversy over the six-month sentencing of former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner for the sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated young woman has passed the state Assembly and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
The proposed bill, which would establish a mandatory prison sentence of three to eight years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person, passed with a 66-0 vote on Monday. It unanimously passed the Senate on Aug. 16.
The proposed legislation would also 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.
The bill, AB2888, was officially introduced by California Assemblymen Evan Low, D-San Jose, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa. Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Nora Campos, D-San Jose, as well as state Senators Joel Anderson, R-Alpine; Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; and Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, coauthored the bill.
"Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that," Dodd said in a statement. "Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal."
In a statement, Low described Judge Aaron Persky’s sentencing decision in the Turner case as "unjustifiable and morally wrong," but within his legal discretion.
"Current law actually incentivizes rapists to get their victims intoxicated before assaulting them," he said. "While we can't go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again."
At a June press conference announcing the proposed bill, Rosen said the legislation was inspired by the impact statement written by the woman that Turner sexually assaulted, known as Emily Doe.
"We've read her letter. Now let's give her back something beyond worldwide sympathy and anger," Rosen said on June 22. "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."
Turner is set to be released early this Friday, Sept. 2, due to credit for good behavior, the county jail has confirmed. He will have served half of his sentence.
The bill's passage followed the announcement that Persky will no longer hear criminal cases, at his own request.
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.