Teach char­ac­ter

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE -

Amer­i­cans have be­come seem­ingly used to the pre­pon­der­ance of the lack of jus­tice in our na­tion.

Look back to the tri­als of O.J. Simp­son or Casey An­thony — or the num­ber of civil rights-re­lated cases in re­cent years — and it feels like our sense of jus­tice is wan­ing more than ever.

But then a Santa Clara (Calif.) County Su­pe­rior Court judge handed down a sen­tence this week that has us shak­ing our heads more than we can ever re­call.

The case against Stan­ford Univer­sity stu­dent Brock Turner seemed to be air­tight. Two wit­nesses stum­bled across him sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a young woman be­hind a frat house dump­ster and tack­led him as he tried to run away. The rape tests con­ducted on his vic­tim, whose blood al­co­hol con­tent was nearly three times the le­gal limit, proved the as­sault. She was found un­con­scious, pants-less from the as­sault with her bra re­moved.

What more could a jury pos­si­bly want in find­ing a con­vic­tion for such a hor­ren­dous case? This was about as far away from the “he said, she said” dilemmas that plague many of our coun­try’s col­lege cam­puses as pos­si­ble.

And a jury agreed, find­ing the 20-year-old col­lege fresh­man guilty on all three felonies that he stood ac­cused. For those who ad­vo­cate on be­half of sex­ual as­sault vic­tims, it seemed that the Turner case was des­tined to be a shin­ing ex­am­ple of jus­tice in a dif­fi­cult topic grow­ing worse by the year.

But then Santa Clara County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Aaron Per­sky im­posed his sen­tence: six months of in­car­cer­a­tion in the county jail fol­lowed by three years of pro­ba­tion and a life­time reg­is­tra­tion on the sex of­fender list. With good be­hav­ior, Turner will be re­leased af­ter three months be­hind bars.

It was an out­ra­geous ab­di­ca­tion of jus­tice in Amer­ica.

The max­i­mum penalty that Per­sky could have is­sued un­der the charges was 14 years in prison, and the county’s pros­e­cu­tor was seek­ing six years of ac­tive in­car­cer­a­tion along with other fac­tors given Turner’s other­wise clean record.

But Per­sky con­cluded that a lengthy prison sen­tence would “have a se­vere im­pact” on Turner, and de­cided to be far more le­nient. Crit­ics have be­gun a pe­ti­tion against the judge, say­ing his sen­tence smacks of “priv­i­lege” and fa­voritism, as Per­sky too was a Stan­ford stu­dent ath­lete and even helped coach the univer­sity’s lacrosse team af­ter grad­u­at­ing.

Mean­while, Dan Turner has also been lam­basted in so­cial me­dia and by the press af­ter he sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the court re­quest­ing le­niency for his son. Dan Turner’s let­ter praised his son’s aca­demic and ath­letic gifts and blamed the crimes for which his son was found guilty as “20 min­utes of ac­tion out of his 20 plus years of life.” He laments the ef­fect that in­car­cer­a­tion and a sex of­fender sta­tus will have on his son, but never ad­dresses the un­speak­able pain — phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional — that his son im­posed upon his vic­tim.

To this day, Turner has not ad­mit­ted guilt in the in­ci­dent and claims that the sex­ual ac­tiv­ity was mu­tual de­spite all facts dispelling such non­sense. He, and his fa­ther, blame the whole crime upon “the dan­gers of al­co­hol con­sump­tion and sex­ual promis­cu­ity.”

Ex­cept the only dan­ger in this sit­u­a­tion was Brock Tuner’s de­ci­sion to prey upon a vul­ner­a­ble woman. Drink­ing al­co­hol did not get his vic­tim sex­u­ally as­saulted and she did not give con­sent, negat­ing any claim to promis­cu­ity.

The pub­lic is right to be up­set with Brock Tuner and Judge Per­sky, but we are per­haps most an­gry with Dan Turner. As a fa­ther, your most im­por­tant role is help­ing to shape the char­ac­ter of your chil­dren. Be­lit­tling his son’s crime as “20 min­utes of ac­tion” and aid­ing ef­forts to try to dis­credit his son’s vic­tim only goes to show that Dan Turner is not the type of man that any should strive to be.

Cit­i­zens rarely have a chance to shape the ju­di­cial branch, but we do have the op­por­tu­nity to shape our chil­dren. Teach­ing our sons to re­spect women and their rights to their bod­ies is as es­sen­tial as teach­ing them how to read and write.

Un­for­tu­nately, true change in our bat­tle against sex­ual vi­o­lence will start at home rather than in our court­rooms.

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