By Alex Dobuzinskis and Amy Tennery
(Reuters) – California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the top vote-getter in the state’s U.S. Senate primary, has joined the criticism of 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 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.
Harris, who will face Democratic U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez in the Nov. 8 Senate election, is the highest-profile elected official in California to question last week’s sentence handed down on Brock Turner, 20, 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 said. “And I don’t know if the facts actually merit that kind of mitigation.”
A probation report submitted to the judge that recommended against sending Turner to prison said “this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication.”
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 could not be reached to comment on Thursday.
The San Jose Mercury News and local broadcaster KPIX-TV reported on Thursday that between 10 and 20 prospective jurors refused to serve this week in an unrelated case being overseen by Persky, citing the judge’s sentencing decision in the Turner case.
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.
Turner is due to be released on Sept. 2 from the Santa Clara County jail, according to Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman Sergeant James Jensen. He was booked on June 2. Inmates sentenced to county jail in California generally serve 50 percent of their sentences, San Jose, California, criminal attorney Edward Kraus said.
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.”
Politicians, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and celebrities have joined the outpouring of support for the victim. [L1N1911WO]
(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco)