Shirley You Jest – Stanford Sexual Assault

By Michele Hanisee

Fallout from the six-month sentence of rapist, Brock Turner, continues. This week, 16 California Legislators signed a letter to the Commission on Judicial Performance requesting disciplinary action against Judge Aaron Persky, the sentencing judge. A second letter sent to Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen demanded he appeal the sentence.  One signatory to the letters caught my eye (and an eye roll of disbelief is an understatement) — that of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

You see, Assemblywoman Weber authored AB 2590, cleverly named the Restorative Justice Act, which would change state law so that punishment is no longer one of the purposes of incarceration. Instead of incarceration, judges would have the ability to impose “community-based punishment” for all criminal defendants — including those convicted of sex offenses. The California District Attorneys Association(CDAA), which opposes AB 2590, says that the change would allow courts to explain away a defendant’s criminal behavior, absolve them of full accountability for their crimes, and that “given the right judge, a convicted defendant could avoid jail time altogether for almost any offense.

Unlike the recall effort, the letters requesting that Judge Persky be disciplined and the sentence be appealed, are really empty publicity seeking gestures. However as much I and others (like  Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci who has done a phenomenal job in the Brock case) strongly disagree, the sentence was fully within the limits of discretion granted judges by the state legislature. That discretion, as pointed out by the CDAA, would only be expanded under AB 2590. Sentences such as those imposed on Brock Turner will be more likely if this bill becomes law.

Unlike members of the public, Assemblywoman Weber has within her power the ability to ensure that no future defendant convicted of sexual assault will receive a sentence as lenient as Brock Tuners. She simply has to introduce a bill, with the support of her fellow signatories, to make the punishment for sexual assault an offense carrying a mandatory state prison sentence. Don’t hold your breath.

Incidentally, thanks to another pending Weber bill (AB 2466) that changes the definition of incarceration to exclude a county jail sentence and allows felons to vote, Brock Tuner will be able to vote while serving his sentence, if he is actually in County jail when the November election takes place.

As I considered AB 2590 and juxtaposed it with Weber’s letters on the Brock Turner case, a refrain ran through my mind: “Shirley you jest.”

To read my previous blog, “Stanford Sexual Assault Case Typifies California’s New Approach to Criminals,” click here.