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California governor OKs sex crime bill tied to Stanford case

Rape victim

Sacramento: California Governor Jerry Brown has signed bills tightening sentencing options in response to national outrage over the six-month jail sentence given to a former Stanford University swimmer for sexually assaulting a woman passed out near a trash bin.

The Democratic governor announced his approval yesterday of laws requiring longer sentences to be served in state prison for defendants convicted of assaulting unconscious victims, ending the possibility of brief jail sentences like the one Brock Turner received in June.

Turner faced a minimum sentence of two years in state prison, and prosecutors argued for six years, but Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky cited the “extraordinary circumstances” of Turner’s youth and clean criminal record in imposing the shorter county jail term.

The new law removes that option, meaning future defendants will face state prison sentences as long as 14 years.

“Judge Persky’s ruling was unjustifiable and morally wrong, however, under current state law it was within his discretion. While we can’t go back and change what happened, we have made sure it never happens again,” Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, said in a statement. “If you do the crime, you’re going to do the time.”

Turner’s case burst into the spotlight after a poignant statement from the victim swept through social media. Politicians and law enforcement officials have lined up alongside sexual assault survivors to criticise Turner’s sentence, back a recall effort against the judge and urge Brown to sign the tougher sentencing legislation.

The 21-year-old one-time Olympic hopeful was released from the Santa Clara County jail in September after serving three months for good behaviour. He will be on probation for three years in his native Ohio.

Brown said in a signing message that he usually opposes adding more mandatory minimum sentences. But he said he signed the sentencing bill “because I believe it brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.”

Outside jail after Turner’s release, county Sheriff Laurie Smith said she believed his sentence was too light and urged Brown to sign the bill.

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