- Michele Landis Dauber
Stanford law professor who is leading the recall campaign against Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who sentenced Brock Allen Turner to six months in jail after Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Right before sentencing Stanford rapist Brock Allen Turner to six months in county jail, Judge Aaron Persky presided over a domestic violence case, where the abuser was also dealt a light sentence. Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber watched as the victim in that case made a powerful statement to the court and showed photos of her abuse. “She had been beaten so badly that she was completely unrecognizable. … the photos were almost impossible to look at,” recalls Dauber, who is leading an effort to recall Persky. “[Her abuser] got like a weekend or two in jail.” Even then, Dauber says, Judge Persky was concerned the man might not be able to make it to work on Monday after his jail term. “We all had to sit there while they tried to communicate with the county jail to make sure that he wouldn’t be super-inconvenienced by having to go to jail for having basically almost beaten this woman to death,” Dauber says.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In California, a Stanford law professor has launched a recall campaign against the judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Judge Aaron Persky said he was concerned a prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on Brock Allen Turner, who was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault after being caught by two witnesses while on top of the woman. Turner’s victim wrote a powerful letter to her attacker, which has been viewed more than 10 million times. Turner’s father fueled the outrage by complaining his son’s life had been ruined for what he called “20 minutes of action.” The survivor, who has not been named publicly, told The Guardian she was overwhelmed and speechless at the support she has received.
For more, we’re going to Stanford University to Michele Landis Dauber, the Stanford law professor who’s leading the recall campaign against Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who sentenced Brock Allen Turner.
Professor Landis Dauber, thanks so much for being with us. Can you start off by going back to January of 2015 and, for people who have not been following this case, explain what you understand happened?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: So, in January of 2015, the young woman, who is not a Stanford student, went with her sister and some friends—she lives locally—to visit some friends who were at Stanford, and they attended a party at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house. She became extremely intoxicated during this party, and in fact some voicemails that were played at trial that she left for her boyfriend during the party show that she was completely incoherent and really just not speaking intelligibly at all, just clearly out of it. Her sister had to depart the event momentarily, and during that time she ended up being sexually assaulted behind the dumpster in the dirt outside the fraternity house. And she was only saved when two bicyclists, Swedish graduate students, from a distance, I must say, of 50 feet, could tell that she was being sexually assaulted while she was unconscious. And they intervened and then chased Mr. Turner, the assailant, because he ran away, and held him for the police. And he was arrested subsequently, charged and went to trial and was convicted on three felony counts of sexual assault.
AMY GOODMAN: These graduate students, they were crying as they reported this. They caught him. They were so deeply disturbed by what they had seen?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yes, because, you know, she was being sexually assaulted basically in full view, and she was—her clothing was off. She was naked. Her vagina was exposed. And she had dirt and pine needles in her vagina. Her body was very contused. She had, you know, a lot of bruises and scrapes on her back. Her hair was a big knotted mess full of, you know, pine needles. And, I mean, it really was an ugly scene. And she was unconscious for several hours. She didn’t wake up in the hospital. The paramedics were unable to revive her. It took hours for her to wake up. So, you know, for all intents and purposes, she was just completely unconscious, and it was just a terrible scene.
AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of the Swedish graduate students, who were the ones that caught Brock, the victim wrote that one of them was crying so hard, he could hardly speak.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yeah, I think the crime scene was totally gruesome, which is another reason that it doesn’t make sense that the punishment is so light. It doesn’t make sense that—you know, the cognitive dissonance to have the family members, like the father, saying, you know, “Oh, you know, this is—he’s been so affected by this that he doesn’t like to eat his favorite snacks anymore. And, you know, I don’t—he used to eat a lot of pretzels, and now he hardly eats pretzels.” You know, this crime scene was gruesome, you know? There were people there who weren’t sure if she was alive or dead. The young bicyclist who saved her said that the first thing that he did was check to see if she was alive. So, it wasn’t even clear to people at the scene that she was breathing, so—and her vagina was exposed, her breast was exposed. I mean, you know, this looked like something off CSI. And, yes, it was traumatic for everyone who witnessed it, and obviously very traumatic, you know, for her.
AMY GOODMAN: And I just want to be clear: It wasn’t the perpetrator who was crying so hard, it was the Swedish graduate student who found them. You know the victim? The victim has not—
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: I do.
AMY GOODMAN: The victim is known for her words in this eloquent statement she made in court, but she has chosen not to be identified. Can you tell us about her?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Well, I really think that it’s important for her words to speak for herself. However, you know, I will say that she is a wonderful, talented, brilliant, funny, smart, high-achieving young woman who has been nothing but a joy in our lives and in the lives of all of her friends. And like any victim, you know—because none of that should matter. No one deserved what happened to her. And in some ways, I think it’s better that she’s anonymous, because I think the power of her words is that this could have been anyone. And I think that’s what’s really important, is this could have been anyone. And at one point in her statement, she says, you know, “I was the weak antelope. I was separated from the herd. And at first I blamed myself, and I thought, 'If I hadn't gone to the party, this wouldn’t have happened to me.’ And then I realized, no, it would have happened anyway, just to someone else.” And so, I think it’s certainly better for her to be anonymous, but maybe it’s better for our understanding of sexual assault for her to be anonymous, too.
AMY GOODMAN: In a follow-up email to The Guardian newspaper, the victim said her case speaks to the experiences of women across the country. She said, quote, “I remain anonymous, yes to protect my identity. But it is also as a statement, that all of these people are fighting for someone they don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t need labels, categories, to prove I am worthy of respect, to prove that I should be listened to. I am coming out to you as simply a woman wanting to be heard. Yes there is plenty more I’d like to tell you about me. For now, I am everywoman.” Is it—
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: And I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, I don’t know if you saw, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, you know, read almost the whole statement live on the air, and she lost her composure and really almost couldn’t get through it. I lost my composure when you were reading it, when you got to the end, you know, the part about Anne Lamott and the lighthouse, which is—you know, I read the statement before the rest of the world read it, and I helped her to get it published in various media outlets, because I knew that the world needed to read these words, and I knew that people would be moved by it, just the way I was and just the way, you know, is happening. And I think it’s because she is saying things that are universal to women’s experience. And I think it’s eye-opening for many men. But I think it—there’s a moment of resonance here. There’s a moment of real resonance for women, you know, understanding and being able to give a name to what has happened to them and to have these words that they never had themselves to express.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Michele Landis Dauber, I wanted to ask you about the recall campaign that you’ve launched. There is a Change.org petition that’s been started to call for Judge Persky to be recalled. It’s received more than 500,000 signatures. Maria Ruiz, who started the petition, wrote, quote, “Judge Persky allowed the lenient sentence suggested by the probation department. Turner has shown no remorse and plans to attempt to overturn his conviction.” It’s—she went on to say, “Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.” That is separate, is that right, from what you are doing?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yes, that’s right. I think that—first of all, you know, I think—I support the words that you just read, and I think that the 500,000 people who have signed this petition are a testament to the fact—to how out of step with public opinion Judge Persky’s perspective on sexual assault is. You know, Judge Persky’s sentence really trivializes sexual assault, and I think that Ms. Ruiz really captures that in her petition. However, under California law, there are some very, very intricate and specific things you have to do to recall a sitting judge, and the Change.org petition will not help us to do that. It may be crystallizing public opinion, but in order to participate in the actual recall, listeners will need to go to RecallAaronPersky.com, and they can sign up there to get updates, they can volunteer, and they can donate, because it will, you know, cost money to run this recall campaign. You don’t have to be a California resident to donate.
Once we—so we have formed a steering committee. And this is a very professional A-team-type effort that we are launching. We have the absolute best team. We have the best legal advice. And we are running this in a by-the-book, you know, dot-every-I-and-cross-every-T manner. The law requires us to gather, you know, a large number of signatures in a very specific way, during a very specific time frame. We have to open—you know, we have to pull papers to open the recall, and then we have a certain set number of days in which to gather those signatures. And then we have to submit them, and then it will be on the ballot.
Now, that said, I have absolutely no doubt that we will succeed. We have a very seasoned team of political operatives and fundraisers, including myself, that are engaged in this. And there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that we will get to the right number of signatures, and we will get this on the ballot. And, you know, talented judicial candidates will come forward to run, including, I hope, some women candidates. And we will replace Judge Aaron Persky with someone who understands sexual violence and will give it the appropriate amount of seriousness that it deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: The Santa Clara County district attorney is among those calling the sentence unjust. District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement, quote, “The punishment does not fit the crime. … The predatory offender has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth. The sentence does not factor in the true seriousness of this sexual assault, or the victim’s ongoing trauma. Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape. Rape is rape. And I will prosecute it as such.” District Attorney Jeff Rosen went on to say he does not think Judge Persky should be removed from the bench. He said, quote, “While I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case, I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship. … I am so pleased that the victim’s powerful and true statements about the devastation of campus sexual assault are being heard across our nation. She has given voice to thousands of sexual assault survivors.” Your response to this?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Well, you know, District Attorney Rosen has his view of this. And the progressive women of Silicon Valley and the millions of other people, men and women, who have—you know, who are supporting the recall or will support the recall, you know, have a different view on whether he should continue in his position. I think that, you know, it’s very important for listeners to understand that we feel that Judge Persky misapplied the law. And when he did that, he made women on college campuses less safe throughout Santa Clara County and, you know, even throughout the state of California. And he did that because the exception that he made in order to sentence Turner to probation was that he found that based on the fact that he had previously been high-achieving and had this record of athletic accomplishments, and because he was intoxicated, that that would count as what he—what the law required him to find was an unusual circumstance. The problem with that is that those are not unusual circumstances as respects campus sexual assault. In fact, you know, alcohol is involved in virtually all campus sexual assaults. And at Stanford and many other universities, any perpetrator is going to be high-achieving. That’s how you get into Stanford. So, if we’re going to start giving out get-out-of-jail-free cards to high-achieving perpetrators at elite schools who have a record of achievement and happen to have had a few drinks, then what we’re really saying is—to women on college campuses who are sexually assaulted, you know, “You’re on your own.” And that is a very, very dangerous message to send from a deterrence perspective. Women are going to be deterred from coming forward and reporting their crimes—these crimes to the police. And potential perpetrators out there are going to not be deterred from committing those crimes, because they’re going to understand that they’re going to get a slap on the wrist. So, we think this is a dangerous sentence.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from Stanford University’s statement regarding Brock Turner’s case. It says in part, quote, “Stanford University did everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case, including an immediate police investigation and referral to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for a successful prosecution. … There has been a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford’s role. In this case, Stanford University, its students, its police and its staff members did everything they could.” Do you agree, Michele Landis Dauber? You’re a law professor there at Stanford.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: No, I don’t agree with that at all. For one thing, in the statement itself, there is no expression of sympathy or compassion for the victim. There’s no statement like, you know, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim, you know, who has bravely endured this. We’re sorry that this happened on our property. We deeply regret it.” There’s no offer of assistance—for example, financial assistance to pay for therapy. Stanford has never, since this happened, expressed regret or remorse, or apologized for this happening on our property, at our party, and has never offered her financial assistance with the costs of the therapy and other treatment that she’s had to undergo. So, no, I don’t think that Stanford has done all that it could have. For one thing, it hasn’t expressed any remorse. And if you just read that statement, it’s a fairly bloodless statement that’s very defensive of the university and does not, in my view, take the situation seriously enough.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to also read what they said: “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.” Professor Dauber?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: According to the survivor, Stanford has not apologized, not expressed remorse and not offered to provide any support, financial or otherwise, for therapy. Now, what I do understand is that Stanford made one call to her about 10 days after the incident to let her know that he was voluntarily withdrawing from school, so they would not want her cooperation in a disciplinary proceeding. And, you know, that is essentially it. Without getting into the details, though, I just—you know, it’s very clear to me—it is not my understanding, and the statement does not say otherwise, although it implies otherwise—that Stanford has neither apologized, expressed regret, nor offered to pay for therapy. And, in fact, there’s a petition on Change.org right now by a Stanford student organization called ASAP that is asking Stanford to make a statement apologizing, expressing remorse for this happening on Stanford’s property and offering the survivor financial assistance with therapy and other expenses associated with this case. And in effect, Stanford had not issued a statement until that petition had about 8,000 signatures, and then it issued the statement that you just read me, which, again, doesn’t actually meet the criteria that the students are asking for. People can go on Change.org and support that petition, as well. I think it has about 30,000 signatures now.
AMY GOODMAN: And the controversy around the photo, the fact that for—I mean, this has been now a year and a half since the assault, since the attack of January 2015, that the photo used for the vast amount of that time was a smiling yearbook photo of Brock Turner, but not the—not the mugshot that was taken that night. That was only recently released. Can you explain what happened?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: You know, I can’t. To me, it seems almost as though he’s being treated like a juvenile, like, you know, his identity was being protected, and Stanford, to the extent that it had any control over that photo, you know, was guarding his identity and trying to protect him from the publicity. Remember, he was allowed to voluntarily withdraw from the university. And with respect to the campus ban, I just want to circle back to that and add that Stanford has no way to enforce those bans. I’ve assisted many survivors over the years, where Stanford has put in place a ban, and then the survivor learns that the perpetrator has come back on campus, or a no-contact order and it’s being violated allegedly. And the university basically has no real mechanism for tracking or enforcing those orders, and has poor, you know, sort of process in place. So, if you’re here locally and you know the context, the idea that this person is banned is—you know, it’s not that—you know, it’s not all that. That said, you know, I do think that Stanford obviously did want to not have Brock Turner back on campus, so that’s really not anything I’m disputing. What I am saying is that, to my knowledge, Stanford has not offered to do anything tangible for the survivor, even though she was sexually assaulted behind Stanford’s dumpster on Stanford’s property at a party that was officially sanctioned by Stanford.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe, Professor Michele Landis Dauber, the scene in the courtroom at the sentencing? You were there early, right, even before this case, the sentencing of Brock Turner, took place? Describe what happened.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Oh, yeah. So this is really interesting, relevant to the recall. Right before the perpetrator in the Brock Turner—right before Brock Turner was sentenced, a domestic violence case came up, and the defendant was there to plead guilty in a plea deal. And the victim, which is very rare, stepped up and made a victim impact statement, even though it was a plea deal, and it was a lengthy victim impact statement. And she was a Chinese immigrant who spoke very eloquently, although her English was not terrific, and—but she had pages and pages, and her statement was essentially, “I am not getting justice, because I’m a woman of color and I don’t speak English and I’m Chinese. But here, I want to show the audience,” she said, “I want to show the courtroom these photos.” And she held up photos that were grisly. She had been beaten so badly that she was completely unrecognizable. She was covered in blood. She repeatedly referred to this as having been tortured, that her hair had been pulled out, that she was very, very, very severely injured, that she was hospitalized, that she had stitches. And, I mean, the photos were almost impossible to look at. They were like crime scene photos. And he got like a weekend or two in jail. And she was decrying this and saying, “This is too light. Where is justice? I’m not getting justice.”
And when he was sentenced even to that weekend in jail, there was a—the judge was very concerned to make sure that he was going to get to go to work on Monday. And so, there was a sort of like, you know, thing that happened in the courtroom while we all had to sit there while they tried to communicate with the county jail to make sure that he wouldn’t be super-inconvenienced by having to go to jail for having basically almost beaten this woman to death. And when that happened, I thought, “Oh, man, you know, we’re in trouble,” because this was a case of extremely serious beating, and the judge did not seem too worried about it when he sentenced him to his weekend. And I immediately thought, “Oh, man, we’re going to have a problem.” And then we did.
AMY GOODMAN: So this judge, Persky, heard two, to say the least, powerful victim statements within a very brief period of time.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yeah, it was sort of surreal, in a sense, you know, to see the Brock Turner victim statement juxtaposed with this immigrant victim impact statement, because I actually think the first one was probably just as compelling, but it’s that she, you know, maybe didn’t have all the benefits—a facility with language and elite education and so forth—that the victim in the Turner case had. So this is sort of going back to the, you know, “I am everywoman who has been victimized by violence against women.” And she was really giving voice to many cases. And, you know, the judge interrupted the immigrant woman, whose name I don’t know—I’m sorry—multiple times and said, you know, “Could you hurry it along? Yes, yes, get to the point.” You know, “Yes, I’m familiar with your case.” He treated her very dismissively, to the point that other people in the courtroom were sort of murmuring, like, you know, “Why can’t she finish?” So, it was—it was a sign to me. And as I work on the recall, it is a sign to me that we need judges in place who really understand violence against women, where it comes from, how important it is to deter it, how we can get strong sentences for it, and who take it seriously and don’t trivialize it. And I just think that Judge Persky is not that person, and he should be replaced with someone who will do a better job.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you, finally, Michele Landis Dauber, put this in the context of the whole movement in this country against campus rape? I mean, I even hesitate to say “campus rape,” because rape is rape. There aren’t different kinds. But talk about how it’s treated differently. But also talk about the movement that certainly will be empowered by this victim’s statement in court.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: So, campus sexual assault, for some reason, for some people, is treated differently. And I definitely think Judge Persky did reflect that view, that somehow if alcohol is involved, if the parties are young, then it is trivialized, and it isn’t taken that seriously, that there is a frame or a trope out there that there’s, you know, real rape, and then there’s, you know, whatever it is that happens on campus, which we won’t call rape. And so, I do think that it has been treated differently for a long time. I think what distinguishes this case is that there is a criminal conviction. In many of these cases, you know, there’s a university process, and victims really get picked apart because the rules of evidence and so forth are different. And so, I think here we have this very strong example of a case that went through the process, where there was a criminal conviction, a jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And because of that fact, that really distinguishes it from a lot of other campus assault cases, it has really galvanized—and because of the power of her words, really galvanized people who have been working in this space, on campus assault, like myself, for many years, into saying, “Yes, this is what, you know, we’ve been saying. We need to address in a more serious way.” So, I do think it is a galvanizing moment. I do think it is bringing a lot of people together around this issue in a way that hasn’t happened previously. And I really hope that that momentum will be sustained.
AMY GOODMAN: Last year at the Sundance Film Festival, a groundbreaking new film premiered that deals with the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, called The Hunting Ground. This was the trailer.
KAMILAH WILLINGHAM: I got a call from the dean of admissions asking, “If you were to get into Harvard, would you accept?” And I said yes, because I knew my mom would kill me if I said anything else.
UNIDENTIFIED: The first few weeks, I made some of my best friends. But two of us were sexually assaulted before classes had even started.
KAMILAH WILLINGHAM: I went to the Dean of Students’ Office, and she said, “I just want to make sure that you don’t talk to anyone about this.”
CAROLINE HELDMAN: They protect perpetrators because they have a financial incentive to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED: Problem of sexual assault on campuses is enormous.
UNIDENTIFIED: I think it’s fair to say that they cover these crimes up. There’s a lot of victim blaming.
UNIDENTIFIED: He lectured us about how we shouldn’t go out in short skirts.
UNIDENTIFIED: They told me, despite the fact that I had a written admission of guilt that I presented to them, it could only prove that he loved me.
UNIDENTIFIED: They discourage them from going to the police. If it goes to the police, then it’s more likely to end up as a public record.
UNIDENTIFIED: Universities are protecting a brand.
UNIDENTIFIED: Campus police cannot contact an athlete.
DON McPHERSON: He won the Heisman Trophy with his DNA in a rape kit.
DAVID LISAK: Just sit down with the students and ask them, “Where are the hotspots?”
UNIDENTIFIED: SAE, sexual assault expected.
UNIDENTIFIED: The second most common type of insurance claim against the paternity industry is for rape.
CAROLINE HELDMAN: Her rapist’s name matched the name of two other cases, and he was allowed back on campus.
UNIDENTIFIED: The message is clear: You’re not going to win.
UNIDENTIFIED: We started seeing, you know, what was happening at campuses across the country.
UNIDENTIFIED: Why has no one connected the dots before?
UNIDENTIFIED: These students went from sexual assault victims to survivors and now activists.
CAROLYN LUBY: My name is Carolyn Luby.
ALEXA SCHWARTZ: My name is Alexa Schwartz.
ARI MOSTOV: My name is Ari Mostov.
UNIDENTIFIED: This is a national problem.
UNIDENTIFIED: We are fed up!
UNIDENTIFIED: I was getting threatened. It was working in their favor to silence me, and I was terrified.
UNIDENTIFIED: I thought if I told them, they would take action, but the only action they took was against me.
UNIDENTIFIED: We’ve got a lot further to go.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for The Hunting Ground, very interesting. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival, got a lot of attention. CNN bought it. And when CNN runs a film, like they did Blackfish, you tune on CNN at any point, and you see this documentary, Blackfish, about SeaWorld and how killer whales were dealt with. I mean, ultimately, I mean, it led to a campaign that got the use of the whales in SeaWorld banned. But this film, The Hunting Ground, I believe it only aired once on CNN, yet they own it, so I don’t know if we can see it again. So this involves two issues: one, the power of what you just watched and heard, and also, though, what happens when a film is made, and do we get to see it.
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yes. I mean, I think this is an incredibly important film. I know the filmmakers and have tremendous respect for them. And, in fact, one of the filmmakers was instrumental in working with me to help bring the victim’s statement to light and sharing it with the public. And I think their commitment on this issue is really remarkable, and their support for survivors around the country on this issue, also in the military. You know, one of the filmmakers had made a previous film about the military and also the Catholic Church. So I think the issue of institutional betrayal and the way institutions protect perpetrators across these, you know, sort of variety of institutions is really key.
As to why this—you know, whether this film got the traction that it should have, no, I don’t think it did. And I think that, you know, is partly attributable to kind of the same reasons that this offender got a light sentence. It’s that there’s this sense that, you know, there’s real rape, and then there’s, you know, who knows what’s happening on campus, and that’s something else. And I think that really part of the importance of this case is that most of the time when you’re dealing with campus rape, people say, “Well, who really knows? You know, the police weren’t called. There as no criminal trial. How do we really know he did it. You know, it’s a he said, she said.” Now we have a criminal conviction. OK? Police were called. There were eyewitnesses. We got a conviction. And then still very little happened. And I think that’s why this has become a very galvanizing moment, and it really is the moment of truth, because we’re not talking about some university process here, right? He was arrested, he was tried, he was convicted by a jury of his peers for not one, not two, but three felonies, including a very serious felony—assault with intent to commit rape, which is supposed to be presumptively ineligible for probation. And yet he still walked away with a slap on the wrist. And I think when people looked at that, they were like, “Oh, it’s not because it was some campus process. Even when you get a conviction, still society will not take it seriously.” That’s why I think this decision is so dangerous and so wrongheaded and is putting women in danger, because it’s sending them the message: You are on your own. And it’s sending the message to perpetrators: Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. And so, that’s why we need to recall this judge, and that’s why we need to mobilize strongly around this case to say, “No, no, no. OK? No. We are going to do something about this now.”
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Michele Landis Dauber, we only have a minute, but I wanted to ask, finally, about this sentence, what exactly it means. Yes, Brock Allen Turner was sentenced to six months, not in prison, in a county jail, with three years’ probation. On good behavior, he could get out before that, presumably. Is that true? Can you explain—
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —what happens? And is this sentence inviolable? It cannot be changed?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: No, the sentence cannot be changed, and he will serve approximately 89 days in the Santa Clara County Jail. He had one day served, and he gets day-for-day good time in Santa Clara County. So he’ll serve about 89 days, three months, a little bit less. And then he will go home to his parents’ house in Ohio—that was, I believe, part of the sentencing—and serve his probation, his three years of probation, there. He will not be on electronic monitoring. And, you know, he will be a convicted sex offender, so he’ll be subject to all of those restrictions in the state of Ohio, whatever they are. He’ll have to register and, you know, whatever those restrictions are. But he is essentially getting—he is getting less time than many people who commit property crimes or other kinds of misdemeanors. This is certainly not, in any way, a sentence that anyone thinks is commensurate with three serious sex crimes in which the victim was gravely injured and there were eyewitnesses. I mean, it’s a shockingly low sentence, given what he did. And, you know, I’ve been on different shows with like prosecutors and, you know, things like that, and people are just sort of dumbfounded. They’re like, “Well, what?” You know, they just can’t believe how low this sentence is. I have yet to hear anyone defend it, frankly. So, I think that, you know, he really did—when I say he bent over backwards to give him a light sentence, I really don’t think I’m exaggerating. And so, we need to remove him and replace him with a judge who understands sexual violence and doesn’t think that it can be trivialized in this way.
AMY GOODMAN: And Judge Persky’s decision that that sentence would be served in the county jail versus a prison?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Well, if it’s less than a year, it happens in county jail. The minimum sentence prescribed by the state Legislature of the state of California for assault with intent to commit rape is two years in prison, which, you know, with time served, is—I mean, it wouldn’t be fun, but it’s not a long sentence. It’s a short sentence in prison. And even that was too short. I mean, he could have said—and in my opinion, should have said, and, in fact, I submitted a letter to sentencing suggesting this—that, you know, taking into account his youth and lack of a criminal record, the minimum of the range—that is, two years—does seem like a reasonable sentence. The prosecution asked for six. I think if he had sentenced him to the minimum two, you know, there would have been some grumbling, but it would have been OK. And instead, he went way out of his way to make a really special exception for him and grant him this 90 days or, you know, six months, 90 days with time served, in county jail. And the Santa Clara County Jail—I mean, Santa Clara County Jail is a pretty nice setup. I mean, it’s jail, but it’s not, you know, like something out of a nightmare scenario. And not that it should be, but it isn’t. And so, you know, he’s—this is, I think, as the victim said, as soft sentence. I don’t think anybody thinks it’s anything other than a soft sentence, you know.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Landis Dauber, the role of the Probation Department and its recommendation in this, that the victim referred to?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yes. So, the Probation Department did make a recommendation, and the judge adopted that recommendation. But I think it’s really important to—for people to understand the legal framework here. The decision about whether this is a, quote, “unusual” case and that the interests of justice require the grant of probation, that is a legal finding that is required by law—that is, by the state Legislature—to be made by the judge. It is not a recommendation that is given to the Probation Department. That is committed to the judge. So it’s the judge’s responsibility. And even though the Probation Department may have thought that this was a, quote, “unusual” case, that’s a decision that’s committed to the discretion of the judge. The judge needed to make that determination. And he can’t pass the buck now and say, “Oh, I was just following the Probation Department.” It was on him, as the judge, to thoroughly analyze the facts of the case and make that determination. The Probation Department report actually recommended probation based on the fact that this was, quote, “less serious” than other similar offenses. And that is incredibly offensive. And that was in the probation report. And I have been doing this work a long time at Stanford, and, if anything, this case was more serious than other similar offenses, because it happened outside, you know, she was unconscious, and her legs were apart, and people could walk by and see her body. I mean, this is a really big invasion of her privacy and her body, maybe even beyond some other similar cases. And so, if it’s unusual at all, it’s worse. And so, he did not have to accept that recommendation, and he cannot clear himself of the responsibility. The Legislature puts that responsibility on the judge.
AMY GOODMAN: And the father’s response, his statement saying that this is all too harsh for 20 minutes of action?
MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yeah, that was a very—he’s come out and clarified and said, you know, that was just an unfortunate word choice, which, you know, yes, it was. I think that the—you know, the father’s statement really—you know, that word choice has really gathered a lot of attention, and including from me, and I do think it was awful. But there are other things in that—in his letter that are in some ways more reprehensible, because he also, like the judge and like Stanford, never apologized to the victim. He never—he was four feet away from her in court, and he never turned to her and said, “I’m so sorry my son did this to you, and he shouldn’t have. And as a parent, I’m ashamed of what he did. And I can’t turn back the clock and take away your pain, but I want you to know I’m sorry.” And he didn’t do that.
AMY GOODMAN: Michele Landis Dauber, Stanford law professor, leading the recall campaign against Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who sentenced Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, to six months in county jail. With good behavior, he’s out in less than 90 days.