There is growing anger locally and worldwide after a judge sentenced former Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman behind a campus dumpster.
An online petition has been launched to recall the judge and the victim's letter —read in court— has gone viral.
Now, a personal text from the woman may intensify the emotions surrounding the case.
“I don't need labels or categories to prove I'm worthy of respect to prove I should be listened to. I came out simply as a woman wanting to be heard. Yes, there's plenty more I'd like to tell you about me ... For now ... I'm every woman," the victim wrote in a text to the prosecutor in response to interview requests that speaks to new found strength and why she prefers to remain anonymous.
Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci says that while she is still disappointed in the sentence, the fallout has been good for raising awareness of the issues involved.
"This sentence has shed light on where the conversation needs to go," Kianerci said. “And this letter that the victim wrote was so powerful … I truly believe it should be required reading."
RECALL PETITION AGAINST JUDGE
On Tuesday, as California voted in the primary election, Judge Aaron Persky, who is running unopposed, is hearing threats of a recall, as well as threats directed personally at him.
“They used a lot of profanity and they wanted harm to come to him and his family,” Santa Clara County deputy public defender Gary Goodman said of the threats against Judge Persky. “It disgusts me how a judge of Judge Persky’s abilities and fairness is threatened by people who know nothing about the case."
Goodman says he has worked with Persky for 20 years, and has experienced fairness when he has argued cases before him.
“He’s a true gentleman,” Goodman said of Persky, who went to law school at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, the same school Turner attended before being charged with sexual assault.
“[Judge Persky is] very bright, a fair and honest jurist. He followed the law. He followed the rules of court,” Goodman said.
Persky, who declined NBC Bay Area’s request for an interview, was also the judge who oversaw the 2011 civil case against members of the former De Anza baseball team. A jury found those young men not liable for the alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at a house party.
Civil trial attorney Monica Burneikis represented the victim in that trial, and says Persky allowed members of the team to testify in court despite taking the Fifth Amendment during the discovery phase, robbing attorneys of the ability to question the members before trial. She says once she heard the Persky’s sentence for Turner, she was “infuriated, but wasn’t surprised.”
Burneikis says her understanding of Persky’s decisions during the civil trial “finally came together.”
“In cases involving an intoxicated person, it seems that Judge Persky’s focus is not on seeking justice for the victim but rather on protecting the perpetrator,” Burneikis told NBC Bay Area over the phone.
Critics also fault Persky for letting in testimony about the girl's behavior and dress from an incident a year after the alleged rape. He also barred testimony from at least one other girl who said members of the team had raped her as well.
NBC Bay Area legal analysts say Persky was known to be tough on sex crimes when he was a prosecutor, and he went by the book when it came to Turner’s sentencing.
“This is a light sentence, but it’s not completely off the wall,” legal analyst Dean Johnson said.
Johnson says Persky followed the recommendations of the probation department, and considered “extraordinary circumstances” including Turner’s age and lack of a prior criminal history.
“The six months for Turner is the least of it. He’s going to be registered as a sex offender. And believe me, the life of a publicly registered sex offender is not a very pleasant one,” said Johnson, who works on the same floor as Turner’s defense attorney.
What two men saw the night the victim was sexually assaulted was not pleasant either.
“It was horrible,” witness Carl-Fredrik Arndt said.
He and fellow Stanford grad student Peter Jonsson were biking across the campus after midnight on Jan. 18, 2015. They saw Turner on top of a partially clothed woman next to a dumpster, questioned him, and, when Turner ran, chased and tackled him.
Arndt and Jonsson, hailed as “heroes,” hope all the attention encourages people to get involved when someone needs help.
"I never thought about it twice, and I'm glad I did it obviously," Carl-Fredrik Arndt said.
UPROAR OVER #NOMUGSHOT
A group upset at the six-month jail sentence the judge handed to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner started a recall petition on Change.org targeting Persky which has already generated hundreds of thousands of signatures.
As many as six petitions opposing Brock's sentencing are circulating online. An official website demanding his recall has also been launched by a Stanford professor.
On social media, delay by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and Stanford University to release Turner’s arrest photo sparked outrage, and the hashtag #NoMugShot, with critics attacking his privileged upbringing as playing a major factor in his receiving a lenient sentencing.
Claims of a special treatment surfaced once again Monday afternoon when the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department released a sentencing photo of Turner that showed him neatly dressed. On the same day, the Stanford University Department of Public Safety released Turner’s original booking photo from the night of his arrest to NBC News, which shows him with bloodshot eyes, hair disheveled.
Statements by both Stanford and the sheriff’s office on why the arrest photos weren’t released earlier contradict each other.
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sgt. James Jensen told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday that as per departmental policy, his office only releases mug shots if the sheriff’s department is the arresting agency. In this case, the arresting agency was the Stanford Department of Public Safety.
Turner was arrested on Jan. 18, 2015, and Jensen took over as public information officer one month later. He said he was never personally asked for Turner’s mug shot until Monday, when he received around 50 email requests. He decided to veer from normal departmental policy and release the sentencing photo — taken June 2 — to the media in this case because the investigation was over, and he wanted to err on the side of transparency.
Jensen said his agency was not responsible for releasing the initial mug shot from Stanford last year.
As for whether Turner got special treatment because he is white and attends a prestigious school, Jensen referred those questions to the Stanford police agency, which didn't return requests for comment.[[382190971, C]]
In an emailed statement Monday, Stanford said it "does not have the authority to release mugshots and requests should be made to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office."
INTENTION TO APPEAL
The Stanford rape case will stay in the public eye since the attorney for Turner has reportedly filed an intention to appeal.
Legal experts say Turner's plan to appeal carries risk in a retrial.
"If Mr. Turner was convicted a second time, they wouldn't necessarily be bound by this sentence,” NBC Bay Area legal analyst Steven Clark said.
Like most judges in Santa Clara County, Persky is unopposed in the June 7 primary. That means his name along with the other two dozen judges who are also up for re-election will not appear on the ballot because no one is running against them.
Persky will automatically proceed to the general election in November.
As for recall efforts, nothing is official yet.
"No one has filed a notice of intent to recall a judge in Santa Clara County," said Anita Torres, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
Torres said that Persky’s critics will have two ways to unseat him. They would have to gather 600 signatures to force a write-in campaign in November. Those signatures would be due by August 17. There would also have to be an opponent to challenge Persky, whose nomination paperwork would have to be submitted by Oct. 25.
Persky’s critics could also collect a total of 58,634 signatures in order to trigger a countywide recall election next year, Torres said.