California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the leading U.S. Senate candidate from the state, has joined the outpouring of criticism against a six-month jail sentence given to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Harris, speaking to reporters in the San Francisco Bay area on Wednesday, said she was concerned that the “victim’s voice was not heard” at the trial.
“It was not respected, and she was not given dignity in the process,” said Harris, a Democrat, according to video from a local television station.
With the comments, Harris has become the most high-profile elected official in California to question the sentence for former Stanford student Brock Turner, 20, last week by a Santa Clara Superior Court judge. Prosecutors had asked for a six-year prison term.
“When someone is facing a 14-year (maximum sentence), which is what I believe was the exposure in this case, there has got to be extraordinarily mitigating facts to reduce it down to what I believe ended up being six months,” Harris told reporters. “And I don’t know if the facts actually merit that kind of mitigation.”
Officials have said the judge, Aaron Persky, has received death threats since imposing the sentence, even as he faces a possible recall effort led by a Stanford law professor.
Joseph Macaluso, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County court, has said Persky is prohibited from commenting on the case because Turner is appealing his conviction.
Macaluso was not immediately available for comment on Thursday morning.
In a Fox News interview on Wednesday, one of the two students who intervened in the assault, Carl-Fredrik Arndt told host Greta Van Susteren that Turner did not seem drunk.
“I mean, he could run,” Arndt said. “He could speak without slurring at all.”
The national uproar over the sentence, fueled in part by the victim’s statement detailing the January 2015 assault in graphic terms and its repercussions on her life, is part of the growing outrage about rape on U.S. college campuses.
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a live video to his Facebook page of several people, including his wife, Chirlane McCray, and actress Cynthia Nixon, reading the letter the victim read in court addressing her attacker.
Actress Lena Dunham offered support for the victim on her Twitter page on Wednesday, posting a video about sexual assault.
The case also struck a nerve internationally.
Social media users in China have begun protesting Turner’s sentence on the networking site Weibo, BuzzFeed reported on Thursday. The Weibo posts frequently include images of the women holding signs with messages of indignation.
“It is rape when she’s unconscious,” one sign reads. “It is still rape when he is a good swimmer.”