Whatever Happened To Brock Turner?

You're undoubtedly familiar with the so-called "Golden Rule": treat others the way you want to be treated. However, there's also an adjacent saying: "Whoever has the gold, makes the rules." In other words, with enough money, you can write your own laws, or at the very least, see to it that the laws don't apply to you.

In a famous criminal case out of California, this second interpretation of the Golden Rule made international headlines when a young man of wealth and privilege was given a prison sentence that many Americans thought was far too light given the seriousness of his crimes. Brock Turner, at the time a student at an elite university — Stanford — sexually assaulted an unconscious woman and received a prison sentence of only a few months. The case not only highlighted the matter of wealthy people managing to escape justice but also the matter of sexual assault on America's college and university campuses, and in particular, the "rape culture" that exists at many of those institutions.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The Assault

At about 1:00 a.m. on January 18, 2015, two Stanford University students were bicycling across campus when they witnessed an assault taking place behind a dumpster, according to Stanford Daily. The two men witnessed a man — later identified as Brock Turner — sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. On being confronted, Turner ran off, and one man attended to the victim while another chased after the assailant, captured him, and pinned him to the ground while a bystander called the police. According to The Guardian, Turner was purportedly laughing while waiting for police to arrive. He was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

The details of the assault are disturbing and won't be rehashed here, except in the outline. A few days after the assault, Turner was charged with rape of an intoxicated person, rape of an unconscious person, two counts related to penetration with a foreign object, and assault with intent to commit rape (via Stanford Daily).

Brock Turner: A Man Of Wealth And Privilege

Brock Turner was a student at one of America's most prestigious West Coast universities at the time of the assault, a privilege reserved largely for those from families who can afford the staggering bill (or the rare few who can score a scholarship). Turner was certainly from such a family, a "wealthy white suburban teen," as writer John Counts described him in an MLive.com piece. Further still, he'd secured a scholarship to Stanford for swimming — what Counts describes as a "country club" sport, and he was reportedly eyeing a spot on the U.S. National Swim Team for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In addition to his privileged background, Turner's lifestyle at Stanford seemed to exemplify what the Boston Globe would describe as a sort of "bro culture." Turner certainly seemed to check off quite a few boxes that would describe such a culture, including hard-partying, alcohol abuse, and membership in a fraternity. Further still, the assault took place in the context of what Slate describes as a "rape culture" on college campuses, a culture that writer Christina Cauterucci claims has insidiously made its way into criminal law in the form of light sentences for men who commit sexual assault — in particular, privileged men such as Turner.

His Light Sentence Causes Outrage

This stew of unequal justice that favors the privileged and a campus culture that can be accused of treating sexual assault with a wink and a nod came to a boiling point on June 2, 2016. Turner was found guilty of three felonies, and prosecutors wanted Turner behind bars for at least six years; he was facing as many as 14 years, according to WNYC Studios. Instead, the publication notes that Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to only six months behind bars, citing his lack of a prior criminal record and the fact that a lengthy prison sentence would "have a severe impact on him." He was also required to register as a sex offender and participate in a sex-offender rehabilitation program, according to Stanford Daily.

The sentence was immediately met with nationwide outrage, according to The New York Times, with allegations that Persky had been too lenient and might possibly have been biased. Turner's father, however, was outraged at the sentence, according to USA Today, who called the sentence "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life." That, too, was met with outrage.

Brock Turner In 2022

Though his prison was comparatively light, Brock Turner paid for his crimes in other ways in addition to serving his brief time behind bars. His swimming aspirations, for example, were thwarted once and for all when USA Swimming announced that he would not be eligible for participation on the team or in any of its programs. His academic career at Stanford also came to an end, as he was completely banned from the campus and couldn't even visit the gift shop if he wanted to.

At one time, Turner was looking at a career in medicine, according to the Daily Mail. Instead, as part of his sentence, he was mandated to return to Ohio and live with his parents. As of June 2019, he was living with his parents and working at a Centerville, Ohio factory making just above minimum wage. "He's been with us for just over two years. He's really quiet and polite. He doesn't say much, and he's not really chatty with anyone. He just keeps his head down and does his job, no problems," said an unidentified source.

Other Fallout From The Case

Brock Turner wasn't the only person associated with his criminal case whose career trajectory was scuttled by the outcome. As CNN reported, nearly 1 million people signed an online petition to have Judge Aaron Persky recalled. According to Jezebel, the legal industry, by and large, came to Persky's defense, with the Santa Clara Bar Association noting that they saw "no credible assertions that in issuing the sentence, Judge Persky violated the law or his ethical obligations or acted in bad faith." But in June 2018, according to the Harvard Law Review, Persky became the first California judge to be recalled by the voters in over eight decades. Meanwhile, California's lawmakers worked to tighten up their sexual assault laws to prevent something like this from happening again. In 2016, as USA Today reported, the Golden State passed a law requiring people convicted of rape to spend time in prison rather than be given probation.

Turner's victim, who identified herself as Chanel Miller, published a book, "Know My Name," described by The Washington Post as a "gut punch."