The emotional testimony of a woman who last January was violently sexually assaulted behind a dumpster at Stanford University by Brock Turner, a now former Olympic hopeful and star freshman swimmer at the university, flooded both conventional and social media. The case has drawn mass-media attention, in addition to the crime’s violent nature, because the defendant was convicted on three felony counts of sexual assault and attempted rape, yet he only received a six-month sentence in a county detention facility and is only expected to serve three months of that sentence.
The judge who delivered this extremely lax sentencing, Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County, did so on the grounds that an extensive prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, despite many objections from fellow law enforcement officials and basically anyone who is a reasonable human being. Persky, before becoming a judge, served as a prosecutor for Santa Clara county, specializing in, you guessed it….sexual assault.
If this judge, who was previously able to tout a very strong conviction rate for sexual assault defendants, was given the opportunity to provide justice for a victim in a case where both DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts were present, why would he offer up such a minor sentence? A look into Judge Persky’s own past and the way student athletes are treated might offer some insight.
Judge Persky, while at Stanford himself, was the captain of the lacrosse team. He also helped to coach the lacrosse team while a student at Berkeley law school. Judge Persky likely did not illegally sentence Turner (which is a whole other issue), but his inadequate ruling was likely propelled by a growing sense of entitlement and hero-worship among student athletes. Judge Persky likely experienced this privilege as a former student-athlete himself.
Treating athletes differently due to their social status is not limited to this case. Throughout professional, collegiate, and even high school athletics, student-athletes have been given a pass, either by the courts or by college administrators, simply because they were gifted with superior athletic ability.
In my opinion, treating student athletes as though their athletic ability overshadows their moral deficits contributes strongly to campus rape. Sports used to be offered as a character building opportunity for young people. It now creates an elite class of students on college campuses who are immune to the repercussions of their own actions because they have the ability to generate income by attracting sports fans to purchase athletic event tickets.