When former Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner was sentenced this summer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman who passed out near a campus fraternity party, California law allowed a judge to avoid sending him to prison because she was unconscious or intoxicated.
No more. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday inspired by the Turner case, removing the provision in state law that treated sexual assault as a less severe crime if the victim was unconscious.
The governor’s approval of Assembly Bill 2888 was a victory for Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the three Bay Area lawmakers — Assemblymen Evan Low, D-Cupertino, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo — who carried it.
“Campus sexual assault is an epidemic,” Rosen said. “While prisons are not appropriate for every person convicted of a crime, rapists belong in prison.”
The bill was among three the governor signed this week toughening laws for sex offenses. Brown also signed Assembly Bill 701, authored by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and inspired by the Turner case. It broadens the definition of rape to include forced penetration of any body part with any foreign object. Turner was convicted of penetrating his victim with a finger, which did not qualify as rape under existing law.
“Sexual penetration without consent is rape,” Garcia said. “When we fail to call rape ‘rape,’ we rob survivors and their families of the justice they deserve.”
Advocates for victims of sexual assault praised the governor for signing both bills — as well as Senate Bill 813 earlier this week. That bill eliminates the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of rape and sexual assault in California. The governor had rejected similar proposals in the past, in part because of prison overcrowding.
Brock Turner’s case, and the gripping testimonial his victim read in court and later published online, drew national outrage and attention to the disparities in the law, and prompted an ongoing effort to recall the sentencing judge, Aaron Persky.
But defense lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed AB 2888.
“Mandatory sentencing laws written in reaction to high-profile cases historically end up resulting in higher incarceration rates for African-American and Latino defendants,” said Santa Clara County public defender Molly O’Neal.
Brown said in a signing message that while he’s generally opposed to adding more “mandatory minimum” sentences in a state with overcrowded prisons, he signed the bill because, “I believe it brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.”
Under the flexible sentencing guidelines in place at the time, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Persky in June ordered Turner to serve six months in county jail plus three years of probation rather than sending him to prison. Turner, who must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, was released in early September after serving three months.
Low thanked the governor for signing the bill.
“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.
Michele Dauber, the Stanford law school professor leading the campaign to recall Persky over Turner’s sentence, said that “while the legislation focuses on prospective cases, our focus remains the recall of Judge Persky as a result of his abuse of discretion in this case.”
The bill eliminating the statute of limitations for rape, SB 813, is not retroactive and will only apply to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2017, or crimes for which the statute of limitations that is in effect now has not run out.
The governor vetoed AB 969, which would have required colleges to report the number of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking complaints received, investigated, and not investigated by the institution, and the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings and investigations. Dauber had suggested it and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, had carried the bill.
“Shame on the governor for his veto of a measure that he admits is common sense and which simply would have provided information about sexual assault and campus safety,” Dauber said. “He says governing boards should be doing this without the need for a law. But they’re not, and his job was to let the Assembly encourage them to do it, not block it.”
Rosen announced Friday after the governor signed the bill that he is co-hosting a forum at Santa Clara University on Nov. 18 on how to prevent and respond to assault. He expects college officials from throughout the area to attend. HLN cable TV reporter Ashley Banfield, who read the entire, 12-page, heart-wrenching statement of Turner’s victim aloud on TV, will be among the moderators.
Original article posted by The Mercury News
By Tracey Kaplan and Jessica Calefati
Click here to read the original article.