SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Under heavy security and the glare of media cameras, a former Stanford University swimmer whose sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus triggered a national debate was released from jail early Friday after serving just three months.
Outside the jail’s entrance, a small group of demonstrators protested Brock Turner’s release and sentence.
Wearing blue shirt and blue dress pants, Turner’s jail exit led him into a gauntlet of local and national media outlets who had gathered at the base of the jailhouse steps.
He hurried down the stairs and quickly entered an awaiting SUV without saying a word.
Turner had told authorities he plans to live with his parents in Ohio. Prison officials there will supervise his three years of probation, which includes registering as sex offender for life.
Before his release, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters early Friday that she was not happy with the sentence that Turner was given.
“I think anyone who is convicted of rape should serve time in state prison,” she said. “We’re done with him. He should be in prison right now, but he’s not in our custody.”
In a prepared statement, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen agreed.
“If we had our way, Brock Turner would be in state prison serving a six year sentence, not going home,” he said. “However, our focus today is on a bill that will require a state prison sentence, not probation, for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. With the Governor’s signature, the next Brock Turner will go to prison.”
As to the heavy security, Smith said “there was a lot of hate” related to Turner’s sentence and release.
Aside from the additional security, no other special arrangements had been made for Turner’s release.
Turner was processed along with the other inmates being released Friday and was not accompanied by his family or attorney as he walked out of the facility.
The sheriff said Turner would also be given a bag of hate mail that have arrived at the jail addressed to him during his incarceration.
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Turner, 21, was placed into custody on June 2, when he was sentenced to six months in Santa Clara County jail after being convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault earlier this year.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky cited the “extraordinary circumstances” of Turner’s youth, clean criminal record and other considerations in departing from the minimum sentence.
The judge followed the probation department’s recommendation for a “moderate” jail sentence, saying prison would have a “severe impact” on Turner and he likely “will not be a danger to others.”
Hours after Turner’s release, protesters gathered at the steps of the jail to voice their outrage over his six-month sentence and early release.
“I’m disgusted by it,” said protester Michael Lyon. “It’s absolutely disgusting.”
Across the street, a second group of protesters gathered to call for Judge Persky to be removed from the bench.
“Are you ready to give Judge Persky the early release that he deserves? Is it time to release Judge Persky?” asked Dublin Congressman Eric Swalwell.
“I hope Judge Persky knows that he as much the problem as Brock Turner is,” said a rape victim who spoke at the protest.
Turner assaulted the unconscious and partially unclothed woman during a party outside a fraternity house on school grounds next to a Dumpster early on the morning of Jan. 18, 2015.
Two passersby caught Turner in the act, chased after him and apprehended him before authorities reached the scene.
The woman woke up later in the morning at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, where she couldn’t remember anything past midnight after drinking alcohol at the party.
Turner told sheriff’s investigators that he was heavily drinking at the party where he met the woman, kissed her outside on the ground and believed the sex was consensual.
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The woman’s 12-page statement read in court addressed to Turner has been widely shared online that describes the impact the assault and its aftermath have had on her life.
“I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something,” the statement said.
The six-month sentence Persky handed down draw harsh criticism and led to an online petition seeking his removal.
He has since stepped down from trying criminal cases in Santa Clara County and is hearing cases in civil court.