The Internet community, as well as mainstream figures, have been furious over the leniency handed to Brock Turner by Judge Aaron Persky. Even one prosecutor who rebuked calls to remove Persky nevertheless said, “I strongly disagree with the sentence.”
People have questioned Persky’s reasoning that a lengthy prison sentence for Turner would do more harm than good, and that Turner’s having no criminal record further warranted leniency.
Some, including Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, suspect that the leniency might be because both Persky and Turner are white male Stanford alumni who were star athletes, so Judge Persky identified with Turner. Another theory put forward by Dauber is that campus rape is not considered as serious.
But, tragically, this is not the most egregious handling of a rape case in recent memory. A major contender for that dubious distinction goes to the case where a district attorney declined to prosecute a rape case…despite the accused rapist essentially admitting he did it.
The case, in which neither the victim nor suspect’s name was released, stemmed from a 2005 alleged rape of a 21 year-old University of Northern Colorado student in Greeley, Colorado.
While drunk, the woman called the man, her ex-lover (but, according to her, not ex-boyfriend) to invite him to her home. They had not been together for over a year. Previously he had impregnated her, but the pregnancy did not come to term: according to him she had an abortion, while she said it was a miscarriage.
As the man had sex with her, she lost consciousness. Although her memory was fuzzy as to whether she said “No,” the accused assailant actually did remember, according to the police report: “He stated the victim did say no, he does recall the victim rolling over and saying no.” He later said he did not recall that.
According to the police report, the man also said toward the end he realized she was unconscious. When he finished he tried waking her up to apologize, so he was aware that he did something wrong.
And to make for less ambiguity, she later did a phone conversation with the man secretly recorded by the police, in which he further solidified his admission:
W: Do you remember me pushing you away and curling up into a ball?
M: I remember that, yeah. But…I remember you doing that but I don’t remember when you did that, though.
W: So, afterwards you were “like, you know, you don’t, don’t tell anybody. So, you obviously knew you had done something wrong. Right?
M: Yeah, I do.
W: I mean do you realize that…it’s rape? [Ellipsis in the original]
M: Yeah, I do.
Nevertheless, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck declined to prosecute the man.
Because, despite the accused arguably admitting to it, Buck concluded there was insufficient evidence. And that maybe the victim actually asked for it.
“A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse,” reasoned Buck.
Buck also elaborated with the woman in a conversation with him she secretly recorded, again suggesting to her that she asked for it:
KB:…all the circumstances, based on his statements and some of your statements, indicate that you invited him to come to your apartment, that you told him how to get in. It would appear to me and it appears to others that you invited him over to have sex with him…
W: So you’re telling me that previous sexual relations is enough to provide consent, and you’re telling me that because of me calling him and because of previous sexual relations and because I invited him up and told him how to get in, that invited him up for sex?
KB: I’m telling you that’s what the circumstances suggest, to people, including myself, who have looked at it. Although, you never said the word yes, but the appearance is of consent.
So despite having a case that was not so much “he said, she said” as it was “they said,” Buck decided on his own that she might have asked for it.
What might have compelled Buck to make this decision? In the woman’s opinion, she thinks it was because of her alleged abortion.
In his recorded conversation, he insisted she had an abortion despite her claim otherwise:
KB: You have had HIS baby, and you had an abortion.
W: That’s false, that’s just false.
KB: Why don’t you clarify?
W: I did have a miscarriage; we had talked about an abortion. That was actually year and a half ago. So…
KB: That would be something that you can cross-examine on, that would be something that might be a motive for trying to get back at somebody.
A staunch conservative who would later align with the Tea Party, in 2010 Buck declared, “I am pro-life…I don’t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest.”
Did Buck deliberately not prosecute a rape case as punishment because he thought the victim had an abortion? Perhaps.
But what this case also shows is that, tragically, the criminal justice system does at times take rape lightly, and engages in victim-blaming, be it at Stanford or University of Northern Colorado.
Meanwhile, what is Buck doing these days? He’s a member of Congress.