California toughens rape laws after infamous Stanford case


Los Angeles (AFP)

California's governor has signed a measure mandating prison time for people who rape unconscious or intoxicated victims, the fallout in the case of an ex-Stanford student athlete that sparked widespread outrage.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation Friday, just weeks after 21-year-old Brock Turner, formerly on the Stanford swim team, was released from jail.

Turner served just three months of his six-month sentence for raping an intoxicated and unconscious 22-year-old woman behind a dumpster at a fraternity house.

Brown said in a statement that he is generally "opposed to adding more mandatory sentences."

However he believes this legislation "brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar," he said in a statement.

Mandatory minimum sentence critics often say that these measures disproportionately affect minority and low-income defendants, and result in prison overcrowding.

Brown also signed into law a bill expanding the legal definition of rape to include all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.

The judge who handled the Turner case, Aaron Persky -- himself a Stanford alum -- set off a firestorm of outrage in June when he sentenced the swimmer to just six months in prison followed by three years of probation, ignoring prosecutors' call for a six-year prison term.

The case threw a spotlight on the problem of rape and sexual assault on US college campuses, amid criticism that handling of these cases is often lax and has given rise to a climate of impunity.

Turner's victim, identified as "Emily Doe," made a powerful statement at his sentencing that drew international attention.

"Rapists like Brock Turner shouldn't be let off with a slap on the wrist," said Evan Low, a state assemblyman and co-author of the legislation, in a statement.

"Judge Persky's ruling was unjustifiable and morally wrong," the lawmaker said. "However, under current state law it was within his discretion."

"While we can't go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again."