Reaction to last Thursday's high-profile sentencing of a former Stanford University student-athlete convicted of sexual assault has been fierce -- locally, nationally and even globally -- and included petitions for the judge's removal and calls for the university to apologize to the victim.
On Monday, the university released a statement saying it "did everything within its power to assure that justice was served" in the Brock Turner case.
Turner, who immediately voluntarily withdrew from Stanford after his arrest in January 2015, was sentenced to six months in county jail and three years of probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated woman outside a campus fraternity party. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen noted following the sentencing that with good behavior, Turner will likely be released from jail in three months.
Many have since decried the sentencing as too lenient, particularly in the wake of a raw, deeply personal 12-page victim impact statement, written by the woman, Emily Doe, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. The district attorney released the statement in full following the sentencing. It has since received global attention in numerous media outlets and on social media.
Several online petitions circulating across the nation call for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky, who handed down the sentencing. Two petitions in particular, with hundreds of thousands of signatures, urge anyone concerned about the sentencing to file official complaints about Persky's "appearance of bias toward a particular class."
One Change.org petition with more than 190,000 signatures and counting as of Monday evening calls the sentencing a "travesty to justice." It "failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors," the petition states.
By Tuesday morning, the number of signatures on the petition had almost doubled, and continued to grow.
On Monday, Stanford law professor and sexual-assault reform advocate Michele Dauber launched an official, dedicated website for the recall effort, asking people to sign up to help or to donate.
Monday's statement from Stanford, the first official, public communication from the university about the case since Turner's arrest more than a year ago, seeks to address "a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford's role" in the case.
"In this case, Stanford University, its students, its police and its staff members did everything they could," the statement reads. "Stanford University takes the issue of sexual assault extremely seriously."
The university called itself "a national leader" in the implementation of prevention programs, training of students to intervene in assaults, support of students who have been sexually assaulted as well as the fair and just handling of cases.
The statement notes that Stanford immediately conducted a police investigation and then referred the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for a "successful prosecution."
Stanford's first press release on the case, issued Jan. 28, 2015, stated that Turner would not be eligible to re-enroll and is prohibited from returning to campus.
Today, the university called that ban which applies to Turner as a student or otherwise "the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student."
Stanford also said that once it learned the identity of Doe, a college graduate who did not attend Stanford, the university "reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking."
Over the weekend, student group Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) started a Change.org petition calling on Stanford to "immediately and publicly apologize to the survivor based on the fact that the attack happened on Stanford's campus and express support for her bravery and suffering," among other demands for more resources for survivors on campus and education related to sexual violence.
As of Monday evening, the petition had more than 8,000 signatures from students, parents, alumni and others across the country. By Thursday, June 9, it had more than 65,000 signatures and counting.
ASAP co-founder Matthew Baiza told the Weekly that he's "grateful" Stanford addressed the case publicly "because they should be leading in vocally supporting survivors and addressing issues of sexual assault."
The statement felt more reactive than proactive, however, he added. And while the university took the necessary steps to respond to this particular incident, the group's petition is "calling for a deeper look at the issues we still face on campus," he said, adding that he found out just last week that a friend had been sexually assaulted this year.
"It's heartbreaking to know this is still a normal occurrence," Baiza said.
"I understand that the university is trying its best to deal with these difficult issues but when its students identify concerns, I would hope they would continue to actively listen to the problems its students face," he said.
Tessa Ormenyi, a recent Stanford graduate and co-founder of student advocacy group Stand With Leah, said Stanford's "defensive" statement failed to do justice to the outcome and impact of the case.
"It's despicable that Stanford continues to defend its brand and practices without offering empathy to the survivor and sexual-assault survivors on campus," she told the Weekly.
Another Change.org petition that was first launched to ask Santa Clara County residents to recall Persky, who is running unopposed in the June 7 election, now urges anyone concerned about the sentencing to file complaints against him. Close to 27,000 people had signed in support as of Monday afternoon.
The woman who started the petition, Mya Stark, lives in Los Angeles and has no direct connection to the case but told the Weekly that after reading Doe's statement online, she had a "mad-as-hell-not-gonna-take-it-anymore moment" and felt spurred to action.
Rosen, who last week called the sentence "unjust," said in a statement Monday that while he "strongly disagree(s)" with Persky's decision, he should not be removed from his judgeship.
"I am so pleased that the victim's powerful and true statements about the devastation of campus sexual assault are being heard across our nation," Rosen said. "She has given voice to thousands of sexual-assault survivors."
Persky cited Turner's lack of a prior criminal record, "genuine" expression of remorse, 39 positive character letters submitted to the court on his behalf and the fact that he was intoxicated when the assault occurred as reasons to grant Turner probation. Incarceration, Persky said, would have a "severe" impact on Turner, particularly given his young age.
He said he considered Turner's intoxication a mitigating rather than aggravating factor "when trying to assess full culpability in this situation."
Persky also said while 12 jurors did not find Turner's version of events convincing, he did.
"The trial is a search for the truth. It's an imperfect process and there's ambiguity at each stage," he said.
Doe and the prosecuting district attorney had argued that Turner had yet to take full responsibility for the crimes he had been convicted of. Persky, however, said he was "not convinced that (Turner's) lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him with respect to his expression of remorse because I do find that his remorse is genuine."
Turner, a native of Ohio who attended Stanford on a swimming scholarship, is now 20 years old. He faced up to 14 years in state prison for the three felonies a jury found him guilty of in March. The prosecution had requested that he serve six years in state prison.
"I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual's life," Persky said at the sentencing.
Turner apologized to Doe in court last Thursday and wrote in his own statement that he is the "sole proprietor" of what happened that night.
Describing how his life has been "shattered" by the events stemming from the 2015 assault, Turner wrote that he hopes to educate high-school and college students about the dangers of a college culture defined by "binge drinking and sexual promiscuity."
"I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone," he wrote. "But I never ever meant to intentionally hurt (Doe).
"I want to let young people know, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one evening." Turner wrote.
In her written statement, Doe addressed Turner directly: "If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering."
The Santa Clara County sheriff's office also released on Monday afternoon Turner's more recent mug shot, taken after the June 2 sentencing. He was immediately remanded after the sentencing in Palo Alto.
Turner's defense attorney, Michael Armstrong of Palo Alto firm Nolan, Armstrong & Barton, confirmed that a notice of appeal was filed the same day Turner was sentenced. Dennis Riordan, a well-known San Francisco appellate attorney, was in court that day and will represent Turner in the appeal.
Calling the assault a "horrible incident," Stanford stated, "we understand the anger and deep emotion it has generated.
"There is still much work to be done, not just here, but everywhere, to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence in any form and a judicial system that deals appropriately with sexual assault cases," Stanford stated.
The Palo Alto Weekly has created Storify pages to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.