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A sexual assault at Stanford and a slap on the wrist for an All-American boy

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- Commentary

Sometimes to get to the beginning you have to start at the end.

Thursday afternoon in a Santa Clara courthouse, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced 23-year-old former Stanford student Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious female student behind a dumpster on the Stanford campus over a year and a half ago.

Turner — an All-American swimmer with Olympic aspirations — could have been sentenced to a maximum of 14 years in a state prison. Prosecutors asked Persky to give Turner six years. Instead, acting upon the advice of probation officers, Turner received six months in a county jail from the judge — with the possibility of only serving three months with good behavior.

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Citing Turner’s age and lack of criminal history, Persky explained the sentence thusly: “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him…I think he will not be a danger to others.”

And that is the latest dispatch from the toxic American rape culture that continues to thrive in America where victims of sexual assault might as well be bagged and tagged afterward along with all the other evidence and filed away with their testimony and impact statements.

There is no question about what happened that January evening; this wasn’t something that happened behind closed dormitory doors. Brock was spotted on top of his victim by two passing students, he bolted and they they tackled him and held him until campus security showed up. The victim woke up the next morning in a hospital with no recollection of what happened.

As his victim stated when she addressed her attacker in court before his sentencing:

“In newspapers, my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something.”

Of course no sexual assault trial is complete without finding fault with the victim and an excuse for the victimizer. In this case, they were both drunk at the time after a party.

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As Brock said in court in defense of himself: “Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.”

According to Scott Herhold of the Mercury News, that alone was reason enough to give Turner a slap on the wrist.

You don’t have to buy Turner’s story that he so was drunk himself that he did not realize she had passed out. But it’s hard to review this case without concluding that it has roots in a culture of campus drinking, the unindicted co-conspirator here.

And that brings me to my final point. Because of a long history of ignoring sexual assaults on campuses, particularly by athletes, we have become more vigilant about prosecuting them. And that is commendable.

But there is a temptation to see the Turner case as a chance to send a message, rather than to weigh all the messy human elements involved.

No, no, no and no.

Blaming drinking for sexual assault is “she was asking for it” for polite company. Drunkenness is not a “get out of jail free card” for rapists. Being drunk when you commit a crime doesn’t allow you to assume the mantle of “I’m also a victim” when you do bad things under the influence.

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And a drunk woman is not an invitation to take what you think is yours.

This isn’t about college athletes who treat their campuses like they are rape buffets. It’s about a very specific criminal case where the evidence was overwhelming and the sentence should have been commensurate with the crime. There is a more than enough that is already wrong with the American way of justice where your fate often depends upon your race, your economic status or even your last name. We don’t need blind justice sneeking a peek to see if a promising athlete is involved.

You can read the victim’s complete statement here, but I’ll leave you with this in her own words:

The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be? If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? How fast he swims does not lessen the impact of what happened to me.

The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.

He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.


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Trump is openly colluding with Ukraine to smear Biden

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President Donald Trump is defending his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one that recent media reports suggest may have been made in order to dig up dirt about one of Trump's likeliest and strongest opponents in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

This article first appeared on Salon.

"The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine," Trump tweeted on Saturday. "Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!"

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It’s ‘Clinton Cash’ all over again as the media blow the Trump whistleblower story

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

We would praise the reporters who revealed the content of a whistle-blower’s complaint that the Trump regime has refused to turn over to Congress as the law requires. But it appears that the outlines of the story were already known in DC political circles. Two weeks before the whistleblower story broke, The Washington Post ran an editorial noting that Donald Trump was withholding $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, and that while “some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence,… the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force [Ukrainian president Volodymyr] Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden." The authors added, "Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.”

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The new Rambo movie is essentially a MAGA fever dream of bigotry

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"Rambo: Last Blood," the latest in the long-running franchise about a traumatized war veteran (Sylvester Stallone) turned on-demand badass, is less an escapist action movie and more a dramatized manifestation of the most notorious sentences from Donald Trump's presidential campaign announcement speech: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Even for a series that has always been shaped by a right wing worldview, the only reason for this latest sequel to exist — besides generating profits from die-hard Stallone fans — is to validate MAGA-world bigotries about Mexicans.This article first appeared in Salon.

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