The judge who gave notorious Stanford rapist Brock Turner a sentence of probation and six months in county jail is giving a Latino defendant in a very similar case a much harsher sentence.
Court documents obtained by the Guardian have brought the case of Raul Ramirez, a 32-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, to light. Like Turner, who was found to have raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, Ramirez was arrested for sexual assault—in his case, of his female roommate. But unlike Turner, who ran when he was caught by two students and later issued a non-apology apology to the court, Ramirez stuck around to talk to police, immediately apologized, and showed remorse.
“Ramirez knew what he did was wrong and he wanted to say sorry,” one officer wrote in the original police report, according to the Guardian.
Saying you’re sorry doesn’t excuse raping someone, of course, and it’s not keeping Ramirez out of jail. Under a plea deal overseen by Judge Aaron Persky, he will be sentenced to three years in state prison for the crime. The issue that critics have when comparing the two cases is not that Ramirez should have gotten less time, but that Turner should have gotten more time.
“What’s happened with Mr. Ramirez is standard,” Alexander Cross, a defense attorney who briefly represented Ramirez, told the Guardian. “The anomaly is the Stanford case.”
Turner never took responsibility for his actions. But this didn’t stop Persky from taking pity on him and declaring that prison would have a “severe impact” on him.
“When you’re sitting in a courtroom with a rapist and a victim, you shouldn’t be feeling pity for the rapist,” Maria Ruiz, a Florida woman who started a Change.com petition to recall the judge, told Fusion in an interview earlier this month. “It’s basically a pardon.”
Looking at the two cases side-by-side lends a significant amount of credibility to ongoing efforts to recall the judge. The recall campaign is based partly on the idea that Persky went out of his way to help Turner because of bias. He was a Stanford athlete once, and might have seen himself in the defendant, recall advocates allege.
The prosecution in Ramirez’ case has not protested how the judge handled the plea deal and sentencing. In Turner’s trial, the district attorney protested that "the punishment does not fit the crime." Turner was facing a maximum of 14 years in prison.
The disparity between the sentences Ramirez and Turner received is part of a systemic issue. Researchers have repeatedly found that minorities are more likely to get longer jail sentences than white people for identical crimes. Whites are also more likely to have access to skilled private lawyers who can argue that hefty jail terms will negatively impact their future careers, as Ramirez’s attorney Ross conceded.
“It’s really a question of lifestyle,” he told the Guardian.
Since the Turner case became a national scandal, prospective jurors have walked out of Persky’s courtroom in protest of how he handled the case, according to the East Bay Times. There have also been public protests against him.
Michele Dauber, a professor of sociology at Stanford University who is leading a second recall effort, told the Guardian that the Ramirez case gives advocates new ammunition to use in the fight against Turner’s light sentence.
“This just shows that our concern about Judge Persky’s ability to be unbiased is justified. We continue to think that he abused his discretion in giving an unduly lenient sentence to Turner,” he said.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.