This story is over 5 years old.


Brock Turner's Character References Don't Matter

It doesn't matter who Brock Turner was before he raped his victim, because he raped his victim.

Let's get something we can all agree on out of the way right now: if you do something bad, whatever good things you have done before, or may possibly do in the future, are literally irrelevant to the bad thing you did. You still did the bad thing. If every day of your life you stopped and gave a sandwich you personally made to a homeless person, good for you. You still should not have punched a person in the face at the bar that one night. To take the hypothetical to it's absurd logical conclusion, if you were the greatest Boy Scout in the history of Boy Scouts, and there were some way to legitimately certify that you were a Good Person, maybe even The Best person, I'm sorry, it's just not at all relevant if you murder someone. In fact, you could argue quite convincingly that it diminishes that Good Person cred, if not completely wipes it out.


For some reason, however, the people involved in the case of Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was convicted of sexual assault, can't seem to work this out, because Brock was always smiling and practiced really hard at his sport or something.

After being convicted of raping—rape is any unwanted, nonconsensual penetration so, yes, this is a rape—a woman behind a dumpster, Turner was sentenced last week to a shockingly lenient six months in jail by judge Aaron Persky because he credited Turner with youth and a clean record and because a "prison sentence would have a severe impact on him…. I think he will not be a danger to others." This is the same college freshman—by any definition, a grown man—who only stopped assaulting his unconscious victim when two Swedish bikers saw him and literally chased him away.

When the sentence was first announced on Thursday, it sparked a flurry of incredulity. Now that a Stanford law professor who is trying fix the way the school handles sexual assault cases on campus has released the reference letters provided in support of Turner, you begin to see that Judge Persky isn't alone in his absurd delusion.

Brock's friend Leslie Rasmussen and his father, Dan Turner, both penned letters campaigning for leniency in Brock's sentencing and they are something else. Rasmussen, a 20-year-old classmate, says Brock isn't a rapist because he didn't kidnap and rape his victim in a parking lot.


#brockturner "reference" letter to judge: stop being so "politically correct" about rape thing,ok? @thehuntinground
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 6, 2016

That is a thing a person wrote with 100 percent earnestness.

Brock's father might be even worse. Dan has since apologized for the "poor word choice" of calling his son's rape of an unconscious woman "20 minutes of action," but it hardly matters. His belief in the validity of his own hamfisted comparison of 20 minutes of this one bad thing to 20 years of these other good things is the real problem. Brock's "life has been deeply altered" by this whole thing. He's not the same smiling Brock he always was and it's not fair this happened to him, and less fair that he should face the consequences of the bad thing that befell him.

#brockturner father: son not "violent" only got "20 mins of action" shouldn't have to go to prison. @thehuntinground
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 5, 2016

Again, this a real thing a person wrote. About a guy who raped someone. Brock liked some kinds of food, so it would be a pity to see him go to jail for the rape he was convicted of.

Now, it is totally understandable that these people who are close to Brock feel this way. They see their friend or their son as a person suffering to come to grips with something he did. They are personally invested in Brock and his future, and it pains them. But the scales of justice don't work like that.

Please remember, this is not even the rape apologist's favorite hobby horse of a "he said/she said" situation. Two witnesses confirmed Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman. Those are the facts. Brock being a nice person to his friends has not one single thing to do with what he did to a stranger; all the character evidence you want to provide is completely undone by what he did to someone he knew nothing of and cared nothing for. It's easy to be nice to and not rape your friends; they are your friends.

For most people, it is just as easy not to rape strangers. But Brock Turner apparently didn't learn that life lesson, and with friends and family reinforcing him like this—not to mention a slap on the wrist from Judge Persky—you have to wonder if he ever will.