Brock Turner freed after serving half of his six-month jail sentence for sexual assault

Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a Stanford University fraternity house. Photo / AP
Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a Stanford University fraternity house. Photo / AP

Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a Stanford University fraternity house, was released from a northern California jail Friday morning after serving half of his widely criticised six-month sentence.

Turner was freed shortly after 6 a.m. local time and left the jail without saying a word, according to reporters in San Jose, California.

Video of Brock's departure from the jail showed him walking briskly toward a waiting SUV with his eyes downward, avoiding questions from a throng of reporters.

The former Stanford swimmer was convicted this year of three felonies - including assault with the intent to commit rape.

The Turner case gained nationwide attention when his victim, known only as "Emily Doe," wrote a 12-page impact statement calling his jail sentence "a soft timeout."

"You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today," she wrote, adding: "The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt, and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on. I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on."

After his release, Turner can return home to Greene County, Ohio, where he will be required to register as a sex offender and start his three years of probation.

"In the non-high-profile cases, one of the things that lawyers try to fight for as much as they can on behalf of their clients in cases like these is to avoid having them register as sex offenders," ABC News's chief legal analyst Dan Abrams told the network. "Because it stays with you for life."

He added: "It means wherever he goes in the country, wherever he lives, the local authorities will be informing residents that a sex offender is in their neighborhood."

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer told ABC News that Turner must complete his sex offender registration within five days after he moves back to his hometown. Fischer said Turner's neighbors will then receive postcards to let them know that a sex offender lives in their community.

Many blasted Turner's six-month sentence as being too lenient.

The case ignited public outrage, which swelled further with the news that Turner was set to be released three months early for good behavior.

The prosecutor had pushed for a six-year prison term, but Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in county jail as well as probation and ordered him to register as a sex offender - a decision that led to calls for the judge to vacate the bench.

Persky has recused himself from hearing criminal cases and requested to be moved to another court.

A group known as Recall Judge Aaron Persky planned a rally on Friday morning outside the Santa Clara Hall of Justice to protest Turner's sentence and the judge who gave it to him.

The case also prompted lawmakers in California to pass legislation imposing mandatory prison sentences for those convicted in sexual assault cases - including instances in which the victims were unconscious or too intoxicated to consent.

The bill - A.B. 2888 - is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature after it was approved by both California's Senate and State Assembly with overwhelming support. The bill, which the Democratic governor has until Sept. 30 to veto or sign, would require judges to choose an appropriate prison term rather than opt for probation or a stint in jail.

"Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that," Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, who helped introduce the bill, said 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.

"This bill is about more than sentencing, it's about supporting victims and changing the culture on our college campuses to help prevent future crimes. I urge Gov. Brown to join the legislature in standing with victims and building a culture that suppresses these reprehensible crimes."

Brock Turner leaves the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose, California. Photo / AP
Brock Turner leaves the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose, California. Photo / AP

Current California law states that, in most cases, judges must choose an appropriate prison term (ranging from three to eight years) for those convicted of rape or sexual assault. However, in cases involving victims who are unconscious or heavily intoxicated, judges may opt for a lesser punishment, such as Turner's six-month jail term.

The new bill stipulates that judges can no longer let perpetrators evade prison in these cases.

It states:

Existing law prohibits a court from granting probation or suspending the execution or imposition of a sentence if a person is convicted of violating specified provisions of law, including rape by force, pandering, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and others.

"Rape is Rape, and rapists like Brock Turner shouldn't be let off with a slap on the wrist," Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, said in a statement. "Judge Persky's ruling was unjustifiable and morally wrong, however, under current state law it was within his discretion.

"Current law actually incentivizes rapists to get their victims intoxicated before assaulting them. While we can't go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again."

Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the legislation.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen told reporters in June that prosecutors wrote the bill, which was introduced to the legislature by Dodd and Low.

"Why under the law is the sexual assault of an unconscious woman less terrible than that of a conscious woman?" Rosen said at the time, according to CNN. "Is it less degrading? Less traumatic?"

Critics claim such a law could create problems similar to those surrounding strict sentences for drug offenses.

"There's no evidence that longer prison sentences serve as deterrents," Michael Vitiello, a law professor at the University of the Pacific, told CNN.

"There are real costs to spending so much money on our prison system," he added. "It means that there aren't resources for other things, like education and more law enforcement on the streets."

In another move, the State Assembly passed a bill last week that broadened the definition of rape. Then the California Senate passed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the statute of limitations in rape cases - a topic that has come up amid the wave of sexual assault accusations against comedian Bill Cosby.

- Washington Post

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