SAN FRANCISCO — A former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity house will be released from jail today after serving half a six-month sentence that critics denounced as too lenient.
Brock Turner's case ignited fierce debate over campus rape and the criminal justice system. It led California lawmakers to pass a tougher sexual assault law and prompted an effort to recall the judge.
The 21-year-old told authorities he plans to live with his parents in his native Ohio, where he must register as a sex offender for life. Lawyers say the requirement will make it difficult for him to find jobs and housing.
Here are some questions and answers about Turner's impending release:
What was Turner's crime?
Turner and the victim drank heavily at a fraternity party and left together in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2015. About 30 yards from the frat house, she passed out near a trash bin. Turner was sexually assaulting her when two graduate students passing by on bicycles confronted him, pinned him down as he tried to flee and called police. Turner unsuccessfully argued that the encounter was consensual. He was convicted of three sexual assault felonies.
What was his sentence?
Six months in jail, three years of probation and registering as a sex offender for life. Turner faced a minimum sentence of two years in prison, and prosecutors argued for six years.
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."
Critics argue the sentence minimized sexual assault on college campuses and called attention to inequality in the courts.
Why did the case generate so much attention?
Buzzfeed published the victim's powerful statement that quickly circulated on social media. She read it before Turner's June 2 sentencing, noting probation officials took into account his lost swimming career in its recommendation to the judge.
"How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment," the victim said. "The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class."
Why is he getting out after three months?
Turner, like nearly all California jail inmates, will be released after serving half his sentence. As long as jail inmates stay out of trouble behind bars, they generally get two days of credit for every day served.