There was worldwide outcry back in June of this year when Stanford University student Brock Turner was given a prison sentence of just six months, despite being convicted of three counts of sexual assault.
The 20-year-old aspiring swimmer, who was caught on top of a half-naked women by two fellow students in January 2015, had been convicted of three felonies – including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person – and faced up to 10 years in prison.
Despite the convictions Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the case in court in Santa Clara, sentenced Turner to just six months in prison with probation, citing his young age and lack of former convictions as reasons for the reduced sentence, adding that prison “would have a severe impact on him”.
Six months after the now-historic ruling, during which a petition calling for Persky’s removal reached over 1.3 million signatures, an independent agency has cleared the judge for misconduct, the New York Times reports.
The Commission on Judicial Performance declared yesterday that Turner’s sentence was within the “parameters set by law and was therefore within the judge’s discretion.”
“The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline,” the statement added.
The news follows Persky’s removal from ruling over a similar sexual assault case, also in June, in which a male nurse was accused of sexually assaulting a sedated woman. Persky was removed from his role after attorneys in the case ruled that they “lacked confidence” in his abilities.
Following this, Persky requested to move back to civil courts in August.
Persky’s ruling in the Brock Turner case shone a spotlight on the US court system, with many calling in to question how it deals with survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Along with the petition to remove Persky from court, a powerful letter written by the survivor of Turner’s assaults highlighted the view shared by many that the sentence he received was too light.
The court statement written by the unnamed 23-year-old victim, which rapidly went viral after it was published on BuzzFeed, raised many questions over a potential epidemic of violence against women, particularly on University campuses. The 7,000 word account goes into brutal detail of not just the assault, but also the intimate hospital examinations that followed and the stress of enduring the trial, during which Turner's defence team argued she had "eagerly consented" to the alleged rape.
The victim addressed Turner directly in court to read him the statement, which begins with the line, "you don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today."
"On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
Following the worldwide attention that the case garnered, during which the former US Vice President wrote an open letter to the victim, California’s state laws relating to rape and sexual assault cases were successfully changed.
The loophole that allowed Persky to hand down the six month sentence was closed in August, Reuters reported.
Turner served just half of his six month sentence, and was released in September after spending three months in jail. He will have to register as a sex offender for life and complete a sex offender management programme.