California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today a new bill that would establish a mandatory prison sentence of three to eight years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person -- the same crime that former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner eventually served three months in county jail for.
Assembly Bill 2888 was inspired by the victim in the Turner case, known as Emily Doe, and was first proposed in June by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office prosecuted Turner.
Turner’s six-month sentence was widely decried as too lenient for the crimes a jury found him guilty of, including the sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated woman outside a fraternity party on Stanford’s campus last January.
The legislation makes 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 national awakening about campus sexual assaults started by Emily Doe’s powerful letter continues to grow, changing our minds and our laws," Rosen said in a statement Friday. "While prisons are not appropriate for every person convicted of a crime, rapists belong in prison."
AB 2888 has faced some criticism from activists and others who work within the criminal justice system who argue that mandatory minimums have a disproportionate impact on low-income defendants and defendants of color, and also contribute to prison overcrowding.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Brown wrote in a signing message for AB 2888 that "as a general matter, I am opposed to adding more mandatory minimum sentences," but said that the bill "brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar."
The law’s co-sponsors -- California Assemblymen Evan Low, D-San Jose; Bill Dodd, D-Napa; and State Sen. Jerry Hill -- hailed the bill on Friday as much-needed reform.
"This sends the strongest possible message that rape is rape and in California, if you do the crime, you're going to do the time," Low said in a statement.
Low called Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky’s sentencing decision in the Turner case "unjustifiable and morally wrong," despite it being within the scope of the law.
"While we can’t go back and change what happened, we have made sure it never happens again," he said.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith repeatedly expressed her support for AB 2888 the morning that Turner was released from jail, pointing to a letter she wrote to Brown urging its passage.
"As the sheriff of Santa Clara County and a mother I believe that the interests of justice are best served by ensuring that sexual predators are sent to prison as punishment for their crime," the letter reads. "Victims of these types of sexual assaults struggle for years to cope with the damage done to their lives, and knowing that there is a more just punishment to those that perpetrated these assaults may provide solace to these victims."
Dodd and Low officially introduced the bill several months ago. Hill, as well as Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and state Senators Joel Anderson, R-Alpine; Jim Beall, D-San Jose; and Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, coauthored the bill.
Brown also signed into law another bill Friday allowing sexual-assault victims to say in court that they were raped, even if the incident doesn't meet the legal definition of rape under California law, the Associated Press reported.
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.