Convicted rapist Brock Turner is a free man, having served just three months behind bars for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman following a college party.
Turner was silent as he left the Santa Clara county jail early Friday morning, hopping in a white SUV and speeding away from the crush of reporters waiting for his release.
In June, Turner was sentenced to six months in jail following his March conviction for the rape of an unidentified woman behind a dumpster after a Stanford University fraternity party. At his sentencing, the presiding judge Aaron Persky claimed that "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on [Turner],” adding, “I think he will not be a danger to others."
Persky's ruling set off a firestorm of controversy, with many claiming the privilege afforded to Turner as a white, college athlete resulted in an abnormally lenient punishment in light of his abhorrent actions. An effort to remove Judge Persky from the bench generated more than one million signatures, and in August, Persky stated that he would no longer preside over criminal cases.
Turner's early release, however shocking, was not, in fact, a surprise. As early as June, reports began circulating that an early release was likely, as inmates at the Santa Clara county jail who maintain a clean disciplinary record are typically freed after serving just half their sentence.
Outrage over Turner's minimal time behind bars contributed to the California legislature's recent passage of a law mandating a minimum of three years in prison for rapes which occur when the victim is unconscious or incapacitated. Exciting mandatory minimum sentencing applied only when force was used in the assault. While advocates claim that the proposed law—which has yet to be signed by CA governor Jerry Brown—will simply streamline the legal responses to rape convictions, critics argue that mandatory minimums won't help deter sexual assault in any meaningful way.
Nevertheless, Santa Clara county sheriff Laurie Smith endorsed the new legislation during a press conference prior to Turner's release.
Now free, Turner is expected to return to his home state of Ohio. He will serve three years on probation, and is required to register as a sex offender.