The Standford Rape Conviction…Kalief Browder Learned Suicide Methods in Rikers…and Therapy Dogs for Trafficking VictimsJune 8th, 2016 by Taylor Walker
A ROUNDUP OF RELEVANT REPORTING ON BROCK TURNER’S RAPE CONVICTION AND SENTENCING
Last Thursday, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gave 20-year-old Brock Turner—a white Stanford athlete convicted of three felony sexual assault charges—an unusually lenient sentence that has sparked public outcry.
Together, Turner’s felonies carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, but Judge Persky sentenced Turner to just six months in jail. It’s likely that Turner will be released in three months with good behavior, followed by three years of probation, and a lifetime on the sex offender registry. The judge, who was himself once a Stanford star athlete, felt that spending time in prison “would have a severe impact” on Turner’s life. It’s also worth noting that before Persky took the bench, he specialized in prosecuting violent sexual predators.
Turner was caught by two passersby thrusting on top of an unconscious, mostly naked 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster. When the two witnesses confronted Turner, he ran away. The two men chased Turner down, and held him until police arrived.
In a letter to the judge, Turner’s father, Dan Turner, wrote about his son’s academics, athletics, friendships, and love of snacks, lost permanently with his appetite. The elder Turner asked that the judge give his son a sentence of probation, arguing that the consequences his son faced were “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
A separate letter to Persky from Turner’s childhood friend called the assault a “huge misunderstanding,” blamed campus rape allegations on unnecessary political correctness, saying, “…rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”
In a statement, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he was disappointed by the judge’s tepid sentence. “The punishment does not fit the crime,” Rosen said. “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.”
On Monday, CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield used three segments of a show (around 35 minutes) to read a letter from Turner’s victim.
The rape victim, who has remained anonymous, read the letter in its entirety to Turner during the sentencing. Here’s a small clip, but go over to Buzzfeed and read the whole thing (or watch Banfield read the letter in the video above):
…at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.
The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up.
The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.
Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber has launched a campaign to recall Judge Persky. Dauber, in partnership with the Progressive Women Silicon Valley organization, intends to gather the 70,000 signatures necessary to get the recall vote onto California’s November 2017 ballot. The recall campaign has raised more than $25,000 of a $100,000 goal, as of this posting.
WRONGFULLY CONVICTED BRIAN BANKS POINTS TO “PRIVILEGE” IN TURNER’S CONVICTION
Brian Banks—a black man who spent 6 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of rape as a teenager—characterized the judge’s leniency as “a case of privilege.”
Banks was cleared of a 2003 rape conviction in 2012with help from the California Innocence Project. Banks, who was also considered a promising young athlete, pleaded “no contest” to the rape charge in order to avoid a 40-to-life sentence, and spent six years falsely imprisoned and five years on parole. While on parole Banks met with his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, and secretly recorded Gibson admitting the accusation was false.
Banks, like Turner, had no prior criminal history, yet Turner, a well-off white college swimmer, will not spend even a fifth as much time behind bars as Banks, who was a poor, black 16-year-old with a football scholarship—and who was innocent.
The New York Daily News’ Gary Myers has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:
He faced 41 years to life in prison and first turned down plea deals for 25, 18 and nine years. Why? He didn’t do it. He finally agreed to undergo 90 days of observation in Chico State Prison with assurances from his attorney that he would then get probation. It was a better option, he was told, than a young black kid facing an all-white jury.
Instead, Banks received six years from the judge.
“It was like he was ordering McDonald’s at a drive-thru window,” Banks said. “It was like he was ordering food and took off.”
Persky elected not to send Turner to state prison and came up way short on the maximum 14 years he could have handed down. He will have to register as a sex offender. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” the judge said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
As if a prison sentence and living among hardened criminals twice his age didn’t have a severe impact on Banks.
“I would say it’s a case of privilege,” Banks said. “It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle. He’s lived such a good life and has never experienced anything serious in his life that would prepare him for prison. He was sheltered so much he wouldn’t be able to survive prison. What about the kid who has nothing, he struggles to eat, struggles to get a fair education? What about the kid who has no choice who he is born to and has drug-addicted parents or a non-parent household? Where is the consideration for them when they commit a crime?”
KALIEF BROWDER LEARNED HOW TO COMMIT SUICIDE WHILE LOCKED UP AT RIKERS
Kalief Browder killed himself last year using methods he learned from other inmates’ suicide attempts during his incarceration at Rikers Island, according to depositions from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Browder that were obtained last week by Jennifer Gonnerman of The New Yorker. (Gonnerman has been following and reporting on Browder’s heartbreaking story since October 2014.)
In 2010, Kalief Browder’s inability to post $3,000 bail for his release led to a three-year stint at Rikers Island, most of which was spent in solitary confinement—without ever being tried—for allegedly stealing a backpack. (Prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges against Browder.)
Following Browder’s release from Rikers, he struggled for three years with mental illness in the aftermath of prolonged isolation.
The depositions reveal that, while in juvenile detention, Browder saw guards move a fellow inmate who had attempted suicide by tying a bed sheet around his neck. Browder said, in the deposition, that the sheet method stuck with him—he tried to hang himself with a sheet several times behind bars, finally succeeding on June 6, 2015, when he was 22 years old.
During one suicide attempt, a jail guard even taunted him, urging him to “go ahead and jump.”
Browder’s story has drawn public attention to the injustice of the cash bail system as well as the severe psychological damage caused by prolonged solitary confinement.
Here are some clips from Gonnerman’s latest story:
Before Browder ever attempted to take his own life, he saw another inmate in the jail for adolescent boys try to end his. “I didn’t see him when he did it, but I seen him when they took him out of his cell, and he had the sheet around his neck,” Browder said during his deposition. This prisoner did not die, but the image of a fellow-inmate with a bedsheet tied around his neck stuck with Browder. “So, when I thought about suicide, that was the first tactic that I thought about.”
He attempted to use this method a few times when he was locked in solitary…
At the end of his final deposition, Browder recalled the first time he tried to take his life, in early 2011, after he had been in jail for about ten months. He was locked in a twelve-by-seven-foot cell, for at least twenty-three hours a day. He said that he was distressed not only because of his constant confinement but because the officers were withholding some of his meals and not allowing him to shower. There was a vent above his sink, and he decided his best option was to tear up his bedsheet and loop the sheet through the vent’s tiny holes. “I stuffed it inside the hole with a pen,” he said, “then I kept twisting it and twisting it until it curved through the other hole, and then I pulled it out.” The process took “twenty or twenty-five minutes,” as correction officers kept peering inside his cell, checking on his progress. Finally, he stood atop his sink, with the sheet looped through the holes in the vent, and tied it in a knot around his neck.
In the deposition, the city’s lawyer asked, “What happened after you tied the sheet around your neck?”
Browder replied, “The correction officers was telling me, ‘Go ahead and jump, you got it ready, right, go ahead and jump.’ And by then I was scared to jump. I never committed suicide before, and I was scared to jump. They said, ‘If you don’t jump, we’re going to go in there anyway, so you might as well go ahead and jump, go ahead and jump. You want to commit suicide, so go ahead.’ I didn’t jump, and they ended up coming in my cell anyway.”
“Why didn’t you jump?”
“Because I was scared at that point.”
“What were you scared of?”
LASD SHERIFF JIM MCDONNELL ANNOUNCES THERAPY DOG PROGRAM TO HELP VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING
On Tuesday, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced a therapy dog program to help victims of sex trafficking. The program, a partnership between LA Human Trafficking Task Force and a volunteer group called the Pet Prescriptions Team, will bring in dogs at the request of investigators to provide comfort and support to victims of sexual exploitation. (Formed in 2015, the multi-agency Human Trafficking Task Force is jointly led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s department.)
City News Service has more on the program.