Crime

California Passes New Rape Law In Wake Of Brock Turner Scandal

| by Nik Bonopartis

Just days before one of California's most notorious sexual predators is set to walk out of jail, lawmakers in the state passed legislation requiring mandatory prison time for anyone convicted of assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim.

In March, 21-year-old Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a then-22-year-old woman three months earlier on the Stanford University campus. Two graduate students riding bicycles past a fraternity house spotted Turner on top of the unconscious woman, half-hidden behind a dumpster.

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When Turner tried to run, one of the graduate students subdued him while the other checked on the victim. They called campus police, and Turner was arrested.

But it wasn't until Turner's sentencing that the case became a major national story. While Turner was convicted of three felonies that could have landed him in prison for up to 10 years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to only six months in Santa Clara County jail.

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Persky handed down the lenient sentence despite Turner's unwillingness to acknowledge the sexual assault, the Independent noted, and justified his decision to send Turner to county jail instead of prison by arguing the latter would have a "severe impact" on Turner.

With Turner set to walk on September 2, California lawmakers passed a bill with a 66-0 bipartisan vote to impose mandatory prison sentences for rape and sexual assault. The bill would limit judicial discretion in those cases, removing judges' ability to sentence convicted rapists and sexual predators to lighter sentences like probation or limited jail time, the New York Daily News reported.

The bill requires California Gov. Jerry Brown's signature to become law. Brown hasn't spoken publicly about his intentions regarding the proposal.

California state Rep. Bill Dodd, a Democrat, sponsored the bill along with two fellow legislators. He hailed the bipartisan vote.

"Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that," Dodd wrote in a statement. "Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal."

Sources: New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, Independent / Photo credit: State of California/Wikimedia Commons