Old Bay Area joke:
How may college students does it take to change a light bulb? At Cal, it takes four: One to change the bulb and three to discuss its significance. At Stanford, it doesn’t take any students because they expect the world to revolve around them.
That joke occurred to me last week as I read about the growing controversy over the light sentence given to a Stanford student-athlete for sexually assaulting a woman who was drunk and passed out. He didn’t actually get to rape her because he was interrupted by two students who chased him down and held him for police.
Prosecutors asked Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky to sentence the convicted assailant, Brock Turner, to six years in state prison–he could have received 14 years. To back-up their request, they had the victim read a long, agonizing letter that described the horror of her assault and the aftermath. It has since become an internet hit.
Turner’s father also offered a statement, pleading for leniency for his son with one of the clearly clueless arguments of recent times. “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.”
But the judge apparently bought the argument, sentencing Turner to six months in county jail. “A harsher sentence would have a severe impact on him,” explained the judge. He could end up serving as little as three months.
Criminal attorneys interviewed after the sentencing said that typically it would be a real stretch to sentence Turner to as little as three years in prison. Persky’s sympathy for the assailant and lack of compassion for the victim has triggered a movement to have him recalled, an effort that’s gaining momentum as more details of the case become public.
Turner’s high-priced criminal attorneys portrayed him as a small town Ohio boy, naive about drinking and partying, who looked to his swim teammates for guidance and made one bad decision. But other evidence showed that Turner lied about using drugs and not drinking before college, and that he had exhibited aggressive behavior toward women prior to the assault.
Brock Turner clearly benefited from his privileged upbringing: Good schools, expensive swim lessons, past indiscretions that were excused, a world-class university, and–when he needed them–highly skilled criminal defense attorneys.
The judge apparently thought a child of entitlement brought to the bar of justice had suffered enough and deserved compassion. I doubt the judge would have had to same attitude if Turner was a San Jose State freshman.
His compassion was misplaced: It should have been directed toward the victim.