A former Stanford University swimmer was released from jail on Friday after serving just half of a six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, a sentence widely criticized as too lenient.
Brock Turner, 20, left the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose shortly after 6 a.m. PDT (1300 GMT), just three months after he began serving a sentence for assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.
Sheriff’s deputies stood nearby as Turner, carrying a paper bag filled with his belongings, walked silently from the jail to a white sports utility vehicle waiting at the curb.
Turner did not answer questions from reporters, climbing into the vehicle which quickly sped away.
The Turner case initially shot to prominence last year because the defendant was a rising student athlete at Stanford. Turner, then 19, was arrested after two students saw him outside a fraternity house on top of an unconscious woman.
He was charged with sexual assault instead of rape because although he digitally penetrated the woman, he did not have intercourse with her, and California law does not define that as rape.
Prosecutors had asked that Turner be given six years in a state prison and under normal sentencing guidelines he likely would have received at least two years.
A letter written by the victim, who remains anonymous, went viral. The moving explanation of her ordeal, which was reprinted and read aloud by television reporters, drew more attention to the case.
In June, Turner was sentenced to six months in the county jail and three years probation, sparking outrage that intensified after prosecutors released a letter written by Turner’s father calling the assault “20 minutes of action.”
Inmates sentenced to county jail in California often serve just half of their sentences before being released, based on factors such as good behavior, according to legal experts.
There was an uproar over the sentencing, with California Attorney General Kamala Harris criticizing the punishment and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden offering support for the victim. The case reflected growing concern over sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses.
Protesters have planned a demonstration later on Friday outside the jail calling for the recall of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Turner. Last month, Persky asked to be assigned to the court’s civil division.
The case also prompted California lawmakers to pass legislation on Monday that would bar probation in similar cases and widen the definition of rape in the state. The legislation must still be signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.—Reuters