A California Superior Court Judge was admonished on Thursday (PDF) for remarks he made in the 2008 sentencing of a convicted rapist, during which he told a prosecutor that the victim’s ordeal was only a “technical” rape because she didn’t put up enough of a fight.
Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson, of Orange County, made the remarks after denying a prosecutor’s request to sentence 43-year-old Metin Reza Gurel to 16 years in prison, opting for a much softer sentence of six years.
The commission noted (PDF) that Gurel, a Turkish citizen, stalked his girlfriend with a GPS device, made a bomb threat against her, faxed a nude photo of her to her workplace, vandalized her vehicle, then threatened to burn her with a heated screwdriver or just set her on fire before repeatedly forcing her to give him fellatio.
“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down,” Johnson said, according to the California Commission on Judicial Performance. “The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case.”
He added: “That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes a rape. I found this whole case to be a technical case. The rape is technical. The forced oral copulation is technical. It’s more of a crim law test than a real live criminal case.”
The shocking assault and bizarre commentary was reported by the OC Weekly in 2008, but the Commission on Judicial Performance didn’t take up the review until earlier this year.
“In the commission’s view, the judge’s remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight,'” the commission’s statement explained. “Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary. In his response to the commission and at his appearance, Judge Johnson conceded his comments were inappropriate and apologized.”
The comments are amazingly similar to those made by failed U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin (R), who was defeated by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after he told a reporter that women can somehow “shut that whole thing down” if they’re impregnated via a “legitimate rape.”
Akin’s comment became a campaign meme as the public learned that many Republicans share this view, based on a 1972 article that’s become part of the anti-abortion movement’s lore. The article, by a University of Minnesota Medical School professor, cites Nazi death camp experiments as its basis for concluding that traumatized women won’t get pregnant.
During his time in the House of Representatives, Akin co-sponsored a bill that sought to redefine rape exceptions for abortion funding as “forcible rape.” That legislation was also supported by many fellow Republicans, including former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan, when asked about the bill, said rape was “another form of conception.”
Despite the public admonishment, Judge Johnson remains on the bench.
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