Wednesday 28 September 2016

Stanford sex attack case: Friend of Brock Turner calls sexual assault conviction 'political correctness'

‘Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists’

Published 07/06/2016 | 10:42

Brock Turner
Brock Turner

A childhood friend of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student who was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assaulted of an unconscious woman, has claimed that the accusations levied against him are down to “political correctness”.

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The claims were made in Leslie Rassmussen’s letter to Judge Pesky, revealed just hours after Turner’s father’s own offensive letter was made public, in which he pleaded for his son not be sent to jail over “20 minutes of action”.

Turner, 20, was found guilty of three felony sexual assault counts for the January 2015 attack. He was interrupted by two graduate students when they saw him assaulting a partially clothed woman behind a dumpster. Turner tried to flee, but the students tackled and pinned him down until police arrived and arrested him.

Read More: Father slammed for comments after son gets six months for sexual assault

He was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. He had faced a maximum sentence of 14 years but was given an unusually light sentence of six months in prison as the judge felt jail “would have a severe impact on him”.

The Cut has obtained a letter to the judge written by Turner’s childhood friend Leslie Rassmussen, in which she explains why she believes the former Varsity swimmer is not a rapist.

Read More: 'What he did to me doesn’t expire, it stays with me' - Young woman sexually assaulted by ex-Stanford swimmer reads powerful letter to him in court

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists,” she wrote.

The letter obtained by the news site includes a picture of Turner that was sent with the statement showing him smiling. Ms Rassmussen claims Turner’s sexual assault of the woman, in which both Turner and the victim were intoxicated with alcohol, is not the same as a woman being abducted and raped.

“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgment.”

Turner’s victim wrote a powerful victim impact statement that was read out in court, in which she addressed her attacker directly and described how "my independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition”.

“I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty,” she said.

Stanford released a statement on the case, in which it praised the students who stopped the attack when they saw it: "Stanford urges its students to do the right thing and intervene and we are proud of our students for stopping this incident. Many other student witnesses cooperated in the investigation.

“Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking. In less than two weeks after the incident, Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus – as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student.”

Many have expressed wanting Judge Pesky removed from office following the lenient sentence he gave Turner. Two petitions on Change.org push for a recall of Mr Persky, who is running unopposed for re-election on Tuesday.

Opponents would need to collect nearly 81,000 signatures from registered county voters to force a recall vote of Mr Persky.

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