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Swedish grad students who pinned down Stanford sex offender speak out

Two graduate students who said they witnessed Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner sexually assaulting a woman on campus have spoken out this week amid outrage over the Ohio native’s six-month jail sentence. 

Swedish doctoral students Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson – key witnesses in the case – were riding their bicycles through campus in January 2015 when they saw Turner on top of a woman on the ground behind a dumpster, Arndt told the Swedish news outlet Expressen on Tuesday. 

They quickly could tell something was wrong, Arndt said. The woman was not moving, but Turner was “aggressively thrusting his hips into her,” the graduate students told authorities. 

“She was unconscious, the entire time,” Arndt told CBS News. “I checked her and she didn’t move at all.”

Brock Turner, shown in a January 2015 booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
Brock Turner, shown in a January 2015 booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. (Associated Press)

The graduate students asked Turner what he was doing, but he began running, Arndt said.

“The guy stood up, then we saw she wasn’t moving still,” Arndt said. “So we called him out on it. And the guy ran away. My friend Peter chased after him.”

Jonsson ran after Turner and stopped him, and the two men restrained him, called the police and held the undergraduate down until police arrived, Arndt told Expressen. 

The graduate students did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Times. 

Jonsson wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that he would not publicly comment on the trial or its outcome but thanked “everyone, friends and strangers, for all the encouragement and support over the last days and months.” 

A jury in March convicted Turner on three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person; sexual penetration of an unconscious person; and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.

Turner faced a maximum penalty of 14 years in state prison, and prosecutors asked a judge to sentence him to a six-year prison term.

Last week, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in county jail and three years of probation, stating that a harsher penalty would have a “severe impact” on 20-year-old Turner. The judge’s decision has sparked outrage and a campaign to oust Persky from the bench. 

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky drew criticism for sentencing former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky drew criticism for sentencing former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail. (Jason Doiy/The Recorder via AP )

In court, the unidentified victim read a 12-page, single-spaced letter that went viral after she gave it to the media. She said she was re-victimized during the trial by Turner’s claim that she had consented.

“I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted,” she wrote. “And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me.”

The woman called Turner’s sentence “a soft time-out, a mockery of the seriousness of the assaults.” 

Turner’s father said in a letter to the judge that his son should not pay such “a steep price … for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” The father’s choice of words was met with harsh criticism, and he later issued a statement that his comments were misinterpreted.

Despite criticism of the sentence, any effort to unseat the judge will be extremely difficult, legal experts said.

Some legal experts said the sentence was unusually light.

“It is very unusual to have six months and probation in a case like this.  The assault with intent to commit rape usually carries a prison sentence,” said Dmitry Gorin, a former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor. “His background and no [criminal] record were a major factor. I cannot think of a similar local case where a defendant convicted by a jury of such a violent crime avoided prison.”

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MORE ON THE STANFORD CASE

Stanford rape case: How can Brock Turner accept responsibility for his actions if his father excuses them?

Stanford sex offender's friends and relatives wrote to persuade judge to keep him out of prison

Father of former Stanford swimmer reportedly refers to sexual assault as '20 minutes of action'

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson



UPDATES:

7:30 a.m. Updated with comments about light sentence.

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