SAN JOSE, Calif. – Brock Turner, whose six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at Stanford University sparked a national outcry, was released from jail Friday morning after serving half his six-month sentence.
The one-time Olympic hopeful swimmer walked out the main entrance of the Santa Clara County jail shortly after 6 a.m. PDT. Turner, who kept his head down and didn’t acknowledge the media, was carrying a large packet of hate mail sent to him during his incarceration. The tall and lanky Turner appeared to be wearing the same shirt and pants he wore during his June 2 sentencing hearing, carrying his suit jacket under an arm.
A local television station followed the rented SUV that picked him up to a nearby hotel, where he checked in with his parents. He plans to head to his native Ohio to live with his parents. The 21-year-old must register as a sex offender for life and faces three years of supervised probation.
Turner’s case exploded into the spotlight when a poignant statement from the victim swept through social media and critics decried the sentence as too lenient. It prompted California lawmakers to pass a tougher sexual assault law and led to an effort to remove the judge from the bench. The victim said it wasn’t fair that Turner’s loss of his athletic career was taken into consideration when sentencing him.
“How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment,” the victim said. “The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said Turner received nonspecific threats in jail in addition to the packet of hate mail given to him as he left jail. She said he was held in “protective custody” during his incarceration but her department didn’t receive any credible or serious threats.
Smith said she believed Turner’s sentence was too light.
Smith urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill the Assembly passed 66-0 Monday that would require mandatory prison sentences for the same crime Turner committed. Brown hasn’t said whether he will sign it.
Turner was convicted of assaulting the young woman near a trash bin after they drank heavily at a fraternity party in January 2015. The victim had passed out and Turner was on top of her when confronted by two graduate students passing by on bicycles. They chased and tackled him when he tried to flee, holding him on the ground until police arrived.
Turner plans to appeal.
A few protesters jeered Turner as he left the jail and more began gathering in front of the nearby courthouse to advocate for the judge’s ouster.
“His sentence was upsetting and unsettling,” said Christy Heiskala, who said she flew from San Diego to attend the protest. Heiskala, 41, says her daughter is a high school senior planning on attending college next year.
“I’m concerned about her safety next year,” Heiskala said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Heiskala was part of a demonstration organized by leaders of the campaign to recall the judge who sentenced Turner. It was held across the street from the San Jose jail.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky cited Turner’s youth, clean criminal record and other considerations when he sentenced Turner. Persky followed the probation department’s recommendation for a “moderate” jail sentence.
Following backlash and a push for a recall, Persky voluntarily removed himself from hearing criminal cases, starting next week.
Recall campaign leaders said Persky’s transfer to civil court was not enough. They and others attending a demonstration outside the jail called for him to resign Friday.
“We need judges who understand sexual assault and violence against women,” said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, a friend of Turner’s victim and the chair of the recall campaign. “Judge Persky does not.”
California jail inmates with good behavior typically serve half their sentences. Ohio prison officials earlier this month agreed to take over supervision of Turner’s probation. Turner must register as a sex offender when he gets to Ohio.
Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said Turner has five days to register with his office in Xenia, Ohio, 15 miles east of Dayton. He will have to report to a probation officer for three years and must avoid alcohol and drugs during that time.
Fischer said his department will notify Turner’s neighbors informing them that a convicted sex offender is moving nearby. Turner will be required to register every three months in person at the sheriff’s office, reaffirming that he is still living with his parents, the sheriff said.
Deputies also will check on Turner without warning to ensure he has not moved without permission from authorities.
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