A recently released transcript is offering a window into the mindset of a California judge who sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Turner faced a maximum sentence of 14 years, but Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara Superior Court sentenced him instead to six months. Prosecutors had asked for six years in prison. The controversial decision by Persky sparked outrage nationwide.
In the sentencing transcripts from the June 2 hearing, defense attorney Mike Armstrong said Turner “has never denied” digitally penetrating the woman but “in his drunken state, he remembered consent.”
The judge appears to believe Turner, 20, as he explains his sentencing decision by saying, “I mean, I take him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events. The jury, obviously, found it not to be the sequence of events.”
While clearly saying “it’s not an excuse,” Persky says Turner’s legal intoxication is “a factor that, when trying to assess moral culpability in this situation, is mitigating.”
As Persky laid out the reasoning behind his sentencing decision, he discussed the comparison of a sober defendant who commits assault with the intent to commit rape versus a defendant who is voluntarily intoxicated. Persky found “there is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is legally intoxicated.”
Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci countered by arguing, “I don’t agree with the court’s description that this case is less serious because there was alcohol involved.”
Kianerci argued Turner’s actions warranted a heftier prison sentence and refuted the judge’s findings by arguing two witnesses saw Turner on top of the unconscious woman.”The defendant has maintained that (the victim) was awake, into it, and coherent” and “while the defendant believes his lie, this court shouldn’t, because 12 jurors didn’t,” the prosecutor said.
Persky also addressed the victim’s feelings, that she doesn’t see Turner having genuine remorse because Turner never clearly stated he sexually assaulted her that night in January 2015. But the judge said he did believe Turner did express “a genuine feeling of remorse.”
The prosecution took issue with using Turner’s remorse impacting the sentencing. Kianerci said, “I don’t agree with the characterization of that remorsefulness also warranting a six-month county jail sentence, which really mean three months in county jail.”
The judge’s sentencing decision also cited Turner’s lack of prior criminal record and numerous character letters. Turner is set to be released from county jail September 2.
Persky’s critics are not limited to the courtroom.
Since his ruling in the Turner case, an online petition to remove him from the bench has attracted more than 1.2 million supporters. But removing a judge in California requires the support of the voters in his or her district.