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2 who backed ex-Stanford swimmer in assault case apologize

  • SANTA CLARA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE VIA AP

    This January 2015 booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office shows Brock Turner.

SAN FRANCISCO » With outcry growing against those who stood by a former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman, a childhood friend and a high school guidance counselor have apologized for writing letters of support urging leniency for Brock Turner.

The case against the one-time Olympic hopeful has gripped the country, with letters to a judge from Turner’s family and friends drawing outrage from critics who say they are shifting blame from a 20-year-old man who won’t take responsibility for his actions. Meanwhile, a searing message the victim read to Turner at his sentencing has been called a courageous account of the effect the assault has had on her life.

Taking into account more than three dozen letters from character witnesses and a recommendation from the county probation department, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years’ probation for attacking the intoxicated 23-year-old woman behind a campus dumpster in January 2015. He tried to flee, but students tackled and pinned him down until police arrived.

The judge cited Turner’s clean criminal record and the effect the conviction will have on his life.

The term triggered criticism that a star athlete from a privileged background had gotten special treatment. Prosecutors had asked for six years in prison.

Turner will only serve three months behind bars, with his expected release date listed as Sept. 2, according to online inmate records. County jail inmates serve 50 percent of their sentences if they keep a clean disciplinary record.

Calls to the county Department of Correction weren’t immediately returned today.

Defendants can solicit letters of support from family, friends and others for judges to consider before sentencing. One of them came from Kelly Owens, a guidance counselor at Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, where Turner attended.

She had told the court that her former student was “absolutely undeserving of the outcome” of a jury trial that resulted in his conviction of three felony counts of sexual assault.

“I plead with you to consider the good things — the positive contributions — he can make to his community if given a chance to reclaim his life,” Owens wrote.

She regrets writing a letter to the judge and acknowledged it was a mistake, her school district said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

“Of course he should be held accountable,” Oakwood City School District Superintendent Kyle Ramey quotes Owens as saying. “I am truly sorry for the additional pain my letter has caused.”

Ramey declined to comment beyond his statement or make Owens available for an interview.

The letters have come from all sides.

Turner’s father also wrote a letter to the judge defending his son and echoing the dozens of other letters from friends and mentors.

“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 his life,” wrote his father, Dan A. Turner. “The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.”

Leslie Rasmussen, a childhood friend of Turner’s, also faced blowback for writing a supportive letter. She had blamed campus drinking culture and political correctness for his drunken life choices.

“I was not there that night. I had no right to make any assumptions about the situation,” according to a posting Wednesday on a Facebook page that appears to be Rasmussen’s. “Most importantly, I did not acknowledge strongly enough the severity of Brock’s crime and the suffering and pain that his victim endured, and for that lack of acknowledgement, I am deeply sorry.”

Rasmussen didn’t respond to messages sent via Facebook. A listed phone number appears to be disconnected.

People angry about her letter took to social media to demand Rasmussen’s indie rock band Good English be dumped from at least four shows that included some Brooklyn clubs hosting a small music festival.

The graphic message the victim read in court gained widespread attention as she described her anger and emptiness. Vice President Joe Biden released an open letter to the woman today.

“I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul,” wrote Biden, who penned the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and is involved in the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign against campus sexual assault. “Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.”

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  • Shouts of ‘white privilege’ about this judge and case. Trump says something about a American Hispanic, and the left goes apaplectic. This judge surely should be removed from the bench.

  • I went and found the victim’s letter. SO well written. Brought me, a grown man, to tears. Two parts that I want to share….

    “Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.”

    and….

    “And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.”

    To have gone what she went through and STILL have the mental wherewithal to reach beyond herself, to others….wow.

  • It’s just terrible that the perp is not held accountable. Anyone else would be in the pen for years. I feel for the woman. Justice? None!

  • Whether he knows it or not, the Judge in this case has identified the fault with our legal system. Fearing what the system (prison) would do to the defendant, the Judge tried to soften the punishment, tried to find a way to punish the criminal but still allow him an opportunity to save his life, to change and become a decent citizen. Unfortunately, we usually do not follow that course. We prefer the power of pain. We prefer to lock people up and make them suffer until they realize their mistakes. In the process we become like the defendant in this case, using our power to cause more pain and suffering. One has only to check the incarceration and recidivism rates in this country to see how we have failed to create a peaceful community for all our citizens. Instead of striving for something better, we settle for equal application of pain and suffering.

  • Either follow the liberal PC or shut up and preferably leave America. We leftists, DNCers, and minorities are in the drivers’ seats, everybody else keep your opinions to yourself or face reprisals. This is how they backed those advocating leniency. Leniency is only to be given to those we tell you. The PCers acted just like certain fascist groups in Europe during the last century.

  • Brock Turner should have had a harsh sentence for what he did. His actions were beyond any reasonable explanation. On the other hand I have little problem with people, those who have known him for most of their lives, standing up for him. That’s what family and friends do. I doubt that they would have predicted the lenient sentence handed down by the judge, who in my opinion is the problem.

    • Your comment speaks volumes especially the last sentence! As for me, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”! It would be an honor to have a friend like you, AhiPoke!

  • The judge was lenient because of how this would affect his life? What about how this has affected the victim’s life. I guess the judge didn’t take that in to account? SMH.

    • To be blunt, what’s done is done. The judge can do absolutely nothing to undo what the victim endured nor can he realistically make it “all go away” by imposing a harsher sentence. What the judge did was impose a sentence he felt would benefit society as a whole today, and more importantly, in the future.

      We can all gripe about it, but let’s face it, most sex offenders will someday be released to dwell among us. The justification for the “light” sentence had much to do with the likelihood that the defendant would emerge after a lengthy prison term a worse human being than before. Would society realize a net benefit by “throwing away the key” each and every time?

    • Exactly. If he were just across the way, from East Palo Alto, and either Black or Poly, and not a WASP Stanford undergrad, he would certainly have been given a max sentence. Stats prove this out…..

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