In response to the six-month sentence that Brock Turner received after being convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, California lawmakers have passed a bill that would effectively close the loophole that caused his sentence to be so light.
The reason for Turner’s light sentence is simple. According to Reuters, California law only considers an act of assault rape when “penile penetration” occurs. CNN also clarifies that current state law in California does not support mandatory prison time for sexual assault when the victim is unconscious.
Under current state law, those convicted of certain sex crimes such as rape by force and aggravated sexual assault of a child are ineligible for probation or a suspended sentence and must serve prison time.
AB 2888 would amend the law to create the same punishment for those convicted of rape, sodomy, penetration with a foreign object and oral sex if the victim was unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication.
The bill passed the state Assembly unanimously by a 66-0 vote and is now in Governor Jerry Brown’s hands. Co-auther of the legislation Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dod said in a written statement, “This bill is about more than sentencing, it’s about supporting victims and changing the culture on our college campuses to help prevent future crimes.”
Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person in June 2015. Prosecutors in the case recommended six years in state prison, but Turner was only given six months. The decision was greeted with much uproar that was fueled in part by the victim’s letter, published by BuzzFeed, that laid out in plain, heartbreaking detail the suffering she endured the night of her assault.
The public outrage at Turner’s light sentence was also directed at the judge in the case, Aaron Persky, who found himself the subject of a massive campaign to recall his position. On August 26th, Persky requested to be reassigned to civil court. The Guardian reports today that Persky launched a campaign to fight the movement to recall, via the website RetainJudgePersky.com which highlights his dedication towards “judicial independence” and pads his resume thusly:
As a prosecutor, I prosecuted hate crimes and sexually violent predators. I received the California Association of Human Relations Organizations Civil Rights Leadership Award for my work on hate crimes. I served as a board member for the Support Network for Battered Women and was a member of the Santa Clara County Network for a Hate-Free Community.
As a judge, I have heard thousands of cases. I have a reputation for being fair to both sides.
It’s unclear as to whether or not the efforts to recall Persky will actually succeed. What is abundantly clear is that Turner is set to be released from prison September 2, after serving half of his six-month sentence.