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Everything wrong with Brock Turner’s father’s court letter

Describing the assault as ’20 minutes of action’ isn’t the only insulting thing he wrote.


Jaya Saxena


Last week, 20-year-old Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a Stanford frat house in January 2015. Throughout the trial, Turner benefitted from certain privileges. News organizations ran photos of him smiling rather than mugshots; his swim times were invoked, suggesting a conviction would ruin Turner’s Olympic prospects; and he ultimately received his incredibly short sentence because the judge felt a longer one would have a “severe impact” on him.

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What is almost as alarming as Turner’s behavior is the letter his father Dan wrote to the judge asking for leniency, which was posted on Twitter by Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor.

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Describing the assault as “20 minutes of action” isn’t the only insulting thing he wrote. Let’s dissect the letter: 

“Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of January 17th and 18th.”

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Yes, he is a rapist, and is being punished for his actions. This is as it should be.

“In hindsight, it’s clear that Brock was desperately trying to fit in at Stanford and fell into the culture of alcohol consumption and partying.”

Let’s take a moment to remember what the victim wrote in a powerful letter she read at Turner’s sentencing. “Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me.” It is a sad situation, but it’s also one he created.

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“He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression.”

Well, perhaps he should have thought of that before sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. She is probably feeling similarly, except she is not the one who made the choice to attack another human being.

“I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him…Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.”

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I…really? Your son isn’t snacking is the problem here?

“His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.”

I am not a parent, but I assume it would be very difficult to come to terms with the idea that your child, the person you spent so much work raising and hopefully teaching to be a good and honest person, is a rapist. That despite your best efforts (assume you made them), we all still live in a culture that puts undue burden of proof on rape victims and is willing to make excuses for those who perpetrate those crimes. But that does not absolve him of anything. His life will not be the way he wanted because he made the choice to commit a very serious crime.

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“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Holy hell. OK. Lots of people are pointing to “20 minutes of action” as, at best, horrendous phrasing and, at worst, proof that Turner’s father continues to see the encounter as consensual. But also, how long does he think it takes to shoot somebody? To hit somebody while driving drunk? To commit many other life-changing crimes?

“He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of January 17th, 2015.”

Ahh, there we go. He does not believe his son was violent, which means he does not actually believe he committed the crime he was convicted of. Except, sorry dude, he was violent. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he’s guilty. If you think he’s not, your entire argument is based on a lie.

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“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

That’s nice EXCEPT THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EITHER OF THOSE THINGS. We’ve already established that drinking alcohol does not make you sexually assault somebody, and “sexual promiscuity” assumes that the crime he committed was wanted on some level. All this proves is that Turner’s father, and likely Turner, fundamentally do not understand why Turner is being (relatively lightly) punished in the first place.

Dauber, who also read a letter to the court, noted that under California statutes, Turner should be facing a minimum of two to three years in prison for the crimes he was found guilty of. Those crimes are “assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.” Not binge drinking. Not promiscuity. Not being confused about mixed signals. Not trying to fit in to college culture. 

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The victim read her own letter in court, and while she remains anonymous, people on social media are supporting her. “I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol,” she wrote.

“Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence.” The crimes Brock Turner committed are clear. What’s unclear is whether the Turner men will ever understand that.

Jaya Saxena is a staff writer at the Daily Dot. Follow her on Twitter @jayasax

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