SAN JOSE — As he regained his freedom, Brock Turner faced protests and heavy media scrutiny as an enduring public face of the issue of sexual assault on American college campuses.
And that was just with his first few steps out of jail.
Turner’s early release just after 6 a.m. Friday after three months in jail was met by a throng of television and press cameras from far-reaching parts of the country, as well as women’s safety advocates who continue to lament the light sentence given to the former Stanford swimmer for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman last year outside a campus party.
Barricades set up to keep spectators at bay flanked a path from the front entrance of the Santa Clara County Main Jail to adjacent West Hedding Street in San Jose.
Turner, clad in a white dress shirt, black slacks, and holding a black suit jacket, looked straight ahead as he briskly made a roughly 30-to 40-foot walk from the front doors of the jail to a waiting white SUV that immediately sped off.
A man amid the onlooking crowd yelled “Loser!” at Turner as he climbed into the vehicle.
Sheriff Laurie Smith, who oversees the county jails, gave a brief statement about Turner’s time at the facility, saying he’s received volumes of hate mail and some threats, but none that were deemed credible. He was sent off with a bundle of the mail.
She also voiced support for a pending state bill that would have mandated prison for Turner’s crimes.
“Anybody charged with and convicted of rape ought to do time in state prison,” Smith said.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office had recommended Turner serve six years in state prison, authored Assembly Bill 2888, which would prohibit probation in cases like Turner’s, effectively requiring jail time for anyone convicted of rape or sexual assault of an unconscious or intoxicated person. The bill, carried by three Bay Area lawmakers, awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill would close a disparity in state law that metes out different severity of punishments based on whether a sexual-assault victim was conscious at the time of the attack.
Later in the morning, bicyclists toting billboards are scheduled to circle the jail complex and neighboring Hall of Justice as part of continuing efforts to recall Judge Aaron Persky from the bench. The stagecraft will precede a rally led by the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, which is aiming to keep the spotlight on a legal outcome critics say is emblematic of the influence of wealth and privilege as well as the challenges faced by sexual assault victims in the criminal-justice system.
Turner’s release, after serving half of his six-month sentence in the Santa Clara County Main Jail, was not a surprise given his lack of prior criminal history. His three-year probation term has been transferred to Ohio, where he is a native of Oakwood, a suburb south of Dayton. He will also be required to register as a sex offender soon after he arrives, and complete a sex offender management program.
Legal analyst Steven Clark, a former Santa Clara County prosecutor, said Turner’s life may still be closely watched even after he moves back home.
“Because of his notoriety, Turner will have the whole community as his probation officer,” he said. “Any violation may land him back in front of a judge, where he then could face a stiff prison sentence.”
Turner was convicted in March of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. In the Jan. 18, 2015 encounter, he was seen thrusting his hips atop an unconscious, partially clothed woman outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity. Two Stanford graduate students who were bicycling by called police and chased down Turner.
Persky’s decision to sentence Turner to six months in county jail rather than a prison term drew national outcry and protests of the judge, eventually spurring his request to transfer from criminal to civil court, set to take effect this month.
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