Judge Persky was not moved

Amy Goodman talked to Michele Dauber on Democracy Now yesterday.

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: So, we are a group of Democratic and progressive women here in Silicon Valley who have come together to put together an actual recall campaign. So there are a number of Change.org petitions online, but those are not the official California recall effort. To participate in that, viewers and listeners should go to RecallAaronPersky.com, where they can sign up for information updates or donate to the effort. And we will be collecting signatures, getting this on the ballot and working to replace him with someone who understands violence against women.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Judge Persky’s handling of the case? Explain what happened in the trial.

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Well, Turner was found guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, by a jury for three felony sex crimes—two counts of sexual penetration of an intoxicated or incapacitated person, and one count of assault with intent to commit rape. And that’s a very serious charge that has a minimum, as you said, two-year sentence, and is presumptively not eligible for probation or a jail, you know, stay less than that two years; however, the judge really bent over backwards in order to give this defendant a very light sentence.

AMY GOODMAN: In his sentencing, Judge Persky seemed to sympathize with Turner’s assertion the encounter was consensual. He said, quote, “I take him at his word that subjectively that’s his version of his events. … I’m not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.” Judge Persky also said, quote, “A trial is a search for the truth. It’s an imperfect process.” He said his sentencing decision took into consideration the defendant had no significant prior offenses, he’d been affected by the intense media coverage, and, quote, “There is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is … intoxicated.” Judge Persky also said, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Your response, Professor Dauber?

MICHELE LANDIS DAUBER: Yeah, this is the kind of talk that really has outraged the community, I mean, really, across the world, but here in Silicon Valley, in particular. Under the law, the judge had to make a finding in order to grant probation. The state Legislature requires that the judge make a finding that this is a, quote, “unusual” case and that the interests of justice require him to grant probation. And to do that, he found that because he was previously a very successful young man and a good swimmer, you know, with all of these accomplishments as an athlete, and that he was intoxicated, that that would be—make it unusual. And the problem with that is that that basically describes every sexual assault at Stanford.

As has pretty much jumped out at us. Yes, he was drunk, he’s a jock, he said she’d consented, he would dislike state prison – what is unusual about any of that?? The judge might as well have said well clearly this guy is an entitled asshole therefore let’s give him a medal and let him go.

Goodman asked how Stanford had dealt with the whole thing. MLD replied:

And I think it’s important for viewers to understand that Stanford has a long history, really, of not treating these offenses particularly aggressively. For example, up until at least last year, Stanford had only ever expelled one student in the whole history of the university for sexual assault. And they have not, say, for example, as Harvard President Drew Faust has, taken on the fraternity culture of sort of toxic masculinity and the sexual assault that comes along with that, you know, sort of more directly. Harvard has taken some very strong measures against fraternities. And Stanford has—our provost, John Etchemendy, has really not stood up to the fraternities. And I think that, you know, in some ways, you can see that this is the kind of situation that you can end up with when you have a culture of elite, male, athletic privilege.

Which describes the national culture to a great extent. The national culture makes a big deal of male athletics, including violent ones like football, and it grovels to elite males who have privilege. The US is a big frat house in many ways.

Then Goodman reads more of the victim’s statement, and MLD says she found it hard to maintain her composure while Goodman read it.

It’s incredibly powerful. And it really has, I think, caused a lot of women who have been sexually assaulted, or other individuals who someone close to them has been sexually assaulted, to really understand the pain. But I really want your viewers to understand that she—although this has really inspired so many people, she didn’t write it for that purpose. She wrote it for the purpose of persuading the judge, Judge Aaron Persky. And unfortunately, unlike, you know, the millions of people who have been moved around the world, Judge Persky apparently was not moved by this, but was instead persuaded that he needed to have a lot of sympathy and solicitude for Brock Turner.

Which is astounding to me. Just simply astounding.

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