California DA wants tougher sentences for some sexual assaults

Prosecutors had asked that Brock Turner be sentenced to six years in prison for the January 2015 assault.

Story highlights

  • Penalties for sexual assault differ depending on whether force was used
  • DA thinks sentences should be the same for all sexual assaults

Palo Alto, California (CNN)Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen wants California legislators to make sentencing tougher for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim.

Rosen on Wednesday announced the introduction of a bill that would make prison time mandatory for anyone convicted of rape or sexual assault against a person who was too intoxicated or unconscious to give consent.
    Rosen said his office wrote the measure, which is being introduced in Sacramento by two Democratic assemblymen, Evan Low and Bill Dodd. The proposal would require at least a three-year prison term.
    "We are hoping to change hearts -- to change minds," Rosen said.
    His announcement comes in the wake of the sentencing of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer who got what many legal observers say was a "slap on the wrist" for sexually assaulting a 23-year-old unconscious woman behind a trash bin on the university's campus.
    While prosecutors asked for a six-year sentence, Judge Aaron Persky handed down only six months in county jail and three years' probation.
    "Why under the law is the sexual assault of an unconscious woman less terrible than that of a conscious woman, " Rosen asked at a news conference Wednesday. "Is it less degrading? Less traumatic?"
    Under current California law, if someone convicted of sexual assault uses force, the sentence includes mandatory prison time, the two assemblymen said in a statement supporting the bill, known as AB 2888. If the convicted defendant assaulted a person who was extremely intoxicated or unconscious, force is not a factor. In these cases, probation is currently an option for sentencing, the legislators said.
    Low and Dodd said their proposal would amend the law to add to the list of felonies sexual assaults against victims who are unconscious or drunk.

    Emotional letter

    Turner's unidentified victim, known as Emily Doe, sparked international outrage over the sentence after she penned a letter that became widely shared online and was read on CNN by anchor Ashley Banfield.
    The 12-page victim impact statement addressed to Turner, giving a harrowing description of her ordeal. She implored Persky not to be lenient.
    Stanford rape survivor's letter to her attacker
    Stanford rape survivor's letter to her attacker

      JUST WATCHED

      Stanford rape survivor's letter to her attacker

    MUST WATCH

    Stanford rape survivor's letter to her attacker 03:56
    "My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured," she wrote.
    She told of going to a fraternity party near Stanford and drinking and then not knowing what happened to her between the time of the party and being conscious in a hospital with pine needles in her hair. She described the traumatic and humiliating experience of enduring an hours-long forensic exam for sexual assault.

    Persky petition

    Judge Persky is now being subjected to a possible recall among those angry over the light sentence.
    Organizers must collect nearly 60,000 signatures from registered voters in Santa Clara County to force his name on a recall ballot. The earliest that could occur would be in November 2017.
    Rosen reiterated Wednesday that he does not favor removing the judge.
    "The judge got it wrong in this case. But he had the right to give that sentence, " he said.
    Persky is up for reelection in November but he was unopposed in a primary earlier this month. At this point he won't have an opponent in the fall election either.
    Terms for Superior Court judges last six years.