Two women who penned letters defending former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner in court have rescinded their support, saying they didn’t realize the severity of his actions.
Kelly Owens, a high school guidance counselor in Ohio, and Leslie Rasmussen, a friend of Turner’s, issued apologies Wednesday for making statements that they said have caused outrage.
Rasmussen, a member of the band Good English, said she was one of at least 39 people who submitted character statements to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky in support of Turner, who was convicted in March of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus.
“I had no right to make any assumptions about the situation,” she wrote on Facebook. “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 said she understood the outrage over her statement and Turner’s sentencing.
“I can only say that I am committed to learning from this mistake,” she said. “I am 20 years old, and it has never been more clear to me that I still have much to learn.”
In her letter to Persky, Owens described Turner as “truly an exceptional person/student,” who was “never boastful or arrogant,” but rather a favorite among his teachers and peers.
Owens, who works at Oakwood High School in Ohio, said the verdict broke her heart, saying that Turner was “absolutely undeserving of the outcome.”
But on Wednesday, Owens submitted an apology to her school district.
Her statement, published in the Dayton Daily News, reads:
“In the statement I submitted to the judge during the criminal proceedings and before sentencing referencing Brock’s character, I made a mistake. Of course he should be held accountable. I pray for the victim, her family and all those affected by this horrible event. I am truly sorry for the additional pain my statement has caused. I tell my students they have to be accountable, and Brock is no exception.”
Turner’s case has drawn outrage after he was sentenced to six months in jail.
He was facing a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, and at the time, prosecutors asked Persky to sentence him to six years in prison.
He was found guilty of 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.
Persky instead sentenced Turner last week to six months in county jail and three years’ probation.
Critics say the sentence was too lenient and have launched a campaign to recall Persky from the bench.
In an emotional a 12-page letter, Turner victim’s called the lenient sentence “a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of the assaults.”
Turner wrote Persky after his conviction, and blamed “the party culture and risk-taking behavior” for actions.
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.”
But Turner’s victim said that his statement showed that he was not remorseful and has failed to take responsibility.
“See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was ‘unconscious intoxicated woman’, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something.”
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