Brock Turner's Dad Gave Tone-Deaf Plea For Lenient Sentence In Son's Sexual Assault Case

He didn't admit his son committed a crime. He called it “20 minutes of action.”

06/06/2016 9:26 AM AEST | Updated 07/06/2016 11:17 AM AEST

The father of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman near a dumpster, urged the judge not to put his son in prison over "20 minutes of action."

Dan A. Turner, Brock Turner's dad, wrote a letter to Judge Aaron Persky before his son's sentencing Thursday. He said that since his son was found guilty of sexual assault, he isn't eating much and is full of worry and anxiety. It's "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life," he argued.

You can read Dan Turner's full letter here.

Brock Turner, 22, was sentenced Thursday to six months in county jail, and could be released sooner for good behavior. In March, Turner was found guilty of three felony sexual assault charges for violating a recent Stanford graduate outside a fraternity party.

Two male graduate students who were passing by the party around 1 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2015, interrupted Turner when they saw him on top of a woman. The grad students chased Turner -- who left his victim behind in the dirt -- and then held him down as a third person called police. 

Turner admitted to having sexual contact, but insisted during the criminal trial that the woman had given consent and that he was too drunk himself to realize she passed out, according to the Palo Alto Weekly. The woman testified she had no memory of her assault. A Stanford public safety officer said in court that after he found her lying unconscious behind a dumpster, she did not wake up for several hours. 

[Related: If Not For 2 Strangers, Brock Turner May Have Never Been Arrested]

A jury found Turner guilty 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. Prosecutors recommended six years in state prison, noting that he'd lied about his alcohol history, had been previously accused of aggression toward women and has refused to admit he committed assault.

At the sentencing, Turner's victim read a 13-page letter about how the assault affected her. The statement was widely shared online over the weekend, with many calling it "powerful."

Persky determined that six months in jail followed by three years of probation was the best punishment for Turner, stating that he had to ask himself, "Is incarceration in prison the right answer for the poisoning of (the woman's) life?" Perksy also cited Turner's lack of a criminal record as a factor in a more lenient sentence.

[Related: This Is Brock Turner's Mugshot]

Dan Turner noted in his letter that his son plans to develop a program for high school and college students to educate them about the "dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity."

However, the tone of his letter -- which does not acknowledge that Brock committed an assault, instead describing the crime as "20 minutes of action" and insisting that Brock "has never been violent to anyone including the night of the Jan 17th 2015" -- offended many people

Dan Turner offered a brief response to his critics Monday morning.

"My words have been misinterpreted by people," he said in a statement to The Huffington Post, submitted through his son's defense attorney. "What I meant with that comment is a 20 minute period of time. I was not referring to sexual activity by the word 'action.' It was an unfortunate choice of words and I did not mean to be disrespectful or offensive to anyone."

Still, many people are frustrated with the light sanction for Brock Turner's assault of an unconscious woman, a sanction that came despite several other letters to the court arguing for a more robust punishment.

Under California statutes, Turner should have faced a minimum of two to three years of incarceration for the crimes, noted Stanford University Law Professor Michele Dauber in a letter to the court. 

A less severe punishment can be given if the case is "unusual" in that it is "substantially less serious than the circumstances typically present in other cases," and the offender is young and has no criminal record, Dauber wrote, but she insisted Turner's case was far from unusual:

Dauber went on to add that Turner was privileged, suggesting that he should be fully aware he was committing a crime which has no justification. 

A letter signed by more than 250 Stanford students and a handful of alumni, parents and professors also pointed out Turner should have known he was committing a horrific crime due to the programming he received as a freshman that dealt with sexual assault, consent and alcohol usage. 

A third letter, submitted by a dozen student leaders, including Greek life and student government members, echoed that point:

This is not a case of someone who just didn’t know what he was doing and made a mistake. ... His crime was serious, and his sentence should also be serious. As people who have suffered fear as a result of his crime, we ask that you consider the impact on our community of the sentence you impose in his case.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen was also displeased by the light sentence for Turner, saying in a statement that the "punishment does not fit the crime."

"The predatory offender has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth," Rosen said. "The sentence does not factor in the true seriousness of this sexual assault, or the victim’s ongoing trauma. Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape. Rape is rape. And I will prosecute it as such." 

Read the impact statement from Brock Turner's victim below:


Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence and is based in New York. You can reach him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

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