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Victim in Stanford sexual assault 'was not given dignity,' attorney general says

Victim in Stanford sexual assault 'was not given dignity,' attorney general says
Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office)

The woman in the sexual assault case involving Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner "was not given dignity in the process," California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said.

Harris, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said she was concerned "the victim's voice was not heard" in a trial that ended with what many consider a light sentence for Turner.

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Harris questioned the six-month sentence, though she said she has not read the full transcript in the case.

"As you know, I have personally prosecuted rape cases, and sexual assault and child molestation cases, and when someone is facing 14 years' exposure, there has got to be extraordinary mitigation facts to reduce down to six months. And I don't know if the facts actually met that kind of mitigation," Harris told reporters.

Turner blamed a "party culture and risk-taking behavior" for his actions.

In a letter he penned to Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, Turner wrote that he was shattered by "the party culture and risk-taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school."

Turner said he came from a small town in Ohio and never experienced partying that involved alcohol. But when he started attending Stanford, Turner wrote, he began drinking to relieve the stress of school and competitive swimming.

"The swim team set no limits on partying or drinking, and I saw the guys take full advantage of these circumstances, while I was shown to do the same," he wrote. "I witnessed countless times the guys that I looked up to go to parties, meet girls and take the girl that they had just met back with them."

Describing himself as an "inexperienced drinker and party-goer," Turner said he looked up to members of his swim team. On Jan. 17, 2015, the night of the sexual assault, Turner said he drank five beers, two "swigs" of Fireball whiskey and bounced from one party to another.

"I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle," he wrote. "I made a mistake, I drank too much and my decisions hurt someone. But I never meant to intentionally hurt [the victim]. My poor decision making and excessive drinking hurt someone that night, and I wish I could just take it all back."

Turner vowed to "change people's attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student."

A jury convicted Turner in March of sexually assaulting the woman; he was facing a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

At the time, prosecutors asked Persky to sentence him to six years in prison for the three felony counts for which he was found guilty: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.

When Persky instead sentenced Turner last week to six months in county jail and three years' probation, the decision sparked outrage. Critics argued the sentence was too lenient and launched a campaign to recall Persky from the bench.

Legal experts have said the six-month sentence was unusually light but within the judge's powers.

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"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."

"Those convictions alone should send him to prison," said Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County's former district attorney. "It's an extraordinary sentence. He'll spend just 90 days in the county jail after being convicted on three sexual assault charges."

Turner's victim read a 12-page letter in open court, calling the more lenient sentence "a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of the assaults." She said Turner had failed to show responsibility.

She wrote:

"Unfortunately, after reading the defendant's statement, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of promiscuity. By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can't even see that distinction."

Some Stanford University students are planning a protest over the sentencing at graduation ceremonies on Saturday.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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UPDATES:

10:38 a.m. This article was updated with background about the six-month sentence and reaction to it.

8:54 a.m.: This article was updated with news of a protest planned for Saturday.

This article was originally published at 7:03 a.m.

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