Thursday, June 16, 2016

Former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, but he's expected to spend less time behind bars in California than I did for blogging in Alabama

Brock Turner
A former Stanford University swimmer is expected to spend less time behind bars for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in California than I did for blogging in Alabama.

If that paragraph sounds beyond belief to you . . . well, that's how it sounds to me, too. But every word of it is true. It might be the most blatant sign yet that our court system is a dysfunctional mess, one that will require citizen oversight--and perhaps a bunch of federal prosecutions--to clean up.

Brock Turner, 20, was convicted on three felony charges in March and sentenced earlier this month to six months in county jail. Turner was arrested on January 18, 2015, after two students saw him on top of a woman behind a dumpster at about 1 a.m., near the Kappa Alpha fraternity on the Stanford campus. How brazen were Turner's actions? According to news reports, he had to be forced off his victim, then chased down and detained by passers-by until police arrived.

Charges against Turner originally included rape, but he was convicted on three felony counts--(1) Assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman; (2) Sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and (3) Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Here is how The Guardian described the incident:

Turner, who is from Dayton, Ohio, was arrested on the Palo Alto campus on 18 January 2015 after two Stanford graduate students spotted him lying on top of the victim outside of a Kappa Alpha party behind a dumpster. When officers arrived, the woman, who is not a Stanford student, was “completely unresponsive” and partially clothed, with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to police.

The two witnesses who were biking past that evening said they saw Turner “thrusting” on top of the motionless woman and that they intervened and held him until police showed up.

Turner, who had a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit, testified in court that he could walk and talk at the time and acknowledged that the victim was “very drunk”. He claimed that he did not intend to rape the woman and that the encounter was consensual.

The victim, who gave emotional testimony during the trial, regained consciousness at a hospital more than three hours after the assault and told police she had no memory of the attack.

 According to Alabama attorney Donald Watkins, writing on his Facebook page, California law calls for a minimum sentence of two years on each of the three counts. This apparently is why prosecutors asked for a sentence of six years. Judge Aaron Persky, of Santa Clara County Superior Court, ignored the request and the law, sentencing Turner to six months.

Multiple news outlets have reported that Turner is expected to spend only three months behind bars. US News reports that Turner is expected to be out of jail by September.

My mugshot after being arrested for blogging in Alabama.
The swollen eye is courtesy of Shelby County deputies, who
pummeled me inside my own home (including use of pepper
spray) without showing a warrant or stating
why they were there.
Now, let's consider what happened to me in fall of 2013, in Alabama. GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke filed a lawsuit against me, claiming certain Legal Schnauzer posts about them were false and defamatory. They sought a preliminary injunction, which has been prohibited in defamation cases as a "prior restraint" by more than 200 years of First Amendment law. I was going to challenge the suit on that issue, but first, I moved to quash service because neither my wife, Carol (who was sued even though she had nothing to do with the blog at the time) nor I had ever been lawfully served. In fact, an attorney's review of the sealed filed showed that no summons had been issued in the case at the time Riley/Duke sought to have me held in civil contempt for failure to appear at a hearing. Never mind that people generally do not appear when they never have been summoned to appear.

I was waiting for a ruling on the Motion to Quash, when Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins entered our home (the basement/garage), beating me up and dousing me with pepper spray while never showing a warrant and only stating his reason for being there after I had already been brutalized. I was hauled to jail, where I stayed for five months, until Carol was able to remove certain posts--even though they never had been found at trial to be false or defamatory. In fact, there was no trial, and there was no jury trial, as required by long-held defamation law.

I still can remember having inmates ask me, "What are you in for?" and seeing them double over in laughter when I said, "I was arrested for blogging." After dabbing their eyes from laughter, they usually said, "So you're the blogging guy. I heard about you. I didn't think you looked like you belonged in here."

Was I kidding when I gave that answer to such queries? Absolutely not. Riley and Duke's own actions--seeking an unlawful preliminary injunction, never asking for a trial, never asking for a jury--indicate they knew they had no defamation case. And as a matter of law, even a kangaroo court's actions showed my reporting to be neither false nor defamatory.

But I was in jail from October 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014--becoming the only journalist in the Western Hemisphere to be incarcerated during that time period. In fact, I'm the first U.S. journalist to be jailed since 2006, and I'm apparently the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case.

So Brock Turner likely gets three months for sexually assaulting a woman; Roger Shuler gets more than five months for writing a blog--one that has never proven to be anything but accurate.

Is it any wonder the public might be losing faith in a court system that wastes tax dollars in huge sums--and doesn't come close to dispensing justice?


Anonymous said...

There is a movement to recall the judge in the Turner case. I hope it's successful.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I think the Alabama Lawyer who killed the State Trooper spent less time behind bars than you did. It's all who you know. If you belong to the right club, be that a hunting club, KKK or whatever, you're in like Fynn. My apologies to the Masons. I'm sure no Masonic Organization itself would never condone the corruption in Alabama, but like the individual CIA Agents who killed John F. Kennedy, no organization can control the behaviors of its members who are individually responsible for their actions. Political parties, churches & organizations likes the Masons are no longer as powerful as get once were. In the 21st Century, individual people weild much more power than these ancient religions & clubs. Get to know the people.

Anonymous said...

Not even sex rehab?

Anonymous said...

Why have sentencing guidelines if a judge is free to ignore them? Three counts, with a two-year minimum, means he should have gotten at least six years.

Anonymous said...

I can see why Turner turned out the way he did. His dad wrote the most noxious letter, to the court, that I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I felt very sorry for Brock Turner's mother. Imagine that she has not being able to properly decorate her new house for over a year. All because her son is an convicted sex offender.

Anonymous said...

Turner certainly appears to be afflicted with "affluenza". For decades, courts have moved towards a pathetic stance of lenience towards the privileged.

Schnauzer, you certainly seemed to have felt the full fury of "law and order" Alabama. I was shocked that the Lee Co. jury returned guilty verdicts against Hubbard, would have wagered the farm on a mistrial outcome. Let's see if the courts are as stringent with Hubbard as they were with you and your spouse.

You, along with Donald Watkins and Bill Britt, are waging the "good fight". Just wanted to let you know that your efforts are much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Good reporting LS. Tragic watching these rich kids take whst they want by whatever means necessary. Stay on this one!

Anonymous said...

Samuel H. McHenry II, an Alabama State Trooper on duty, armed with firearms and the power of the State, got the same sentence as Brock Turner for raping an accident victim

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks, @4:07, for the reminder about the McHenry case. Very disturbing.

harriet said...

power is certainly intoxicating in this state

Anonymous said...

Father's Day.

Mike Hubbard (Republican, former Speaker of the House, fat cat, influence peddler) is a newly convicted felon. As he has yet to receive his sentence, this Father's Day will probably be more pleasant than the ones to follow when he will be serving his sentence.

By the time he is released he may have a new "conservative" appreciation for the prison conditions that he and his fellow "family values" politicians have allowed to fester.

Shalom Mikey.

e.a.f. said...

Raping a woman is so less important in a male world than saying something negative about "an elite" male. In a way I can see the sentences making sense to some men. You, a blogger of little consequence to the "big boys" were about to upset their apple cart. The rape victim, was also about to upset the apple cart of an "elite" male. So that is why you got the sentence you did and he got less time than you. You and the young woman were of little consequence to the "elite" male world.

Since the trial, there have been people who refused to serve on a jury with that particular judge on the bench. I do hope the rapist's father paid the judge a lot of money. I'd hate to the think the judge did all of this for free.