Former Stanford swimmer files appeal in sex assault case that sparked public outcry

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SAN FRANCISCO — A former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a campus fraternity party is appealing.

January 2015 file booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office of Brock Turner (Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Lawyers for Brock Turner filed an appeal Friday. They argued the Ohio native’s initial trial was “a detailed and lengthy set of lies.”

The attorneys say they hope a new trial will help overturn Turner’s mandatory lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender.

The case gained national attention when Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail.

Turner, 22, was convicted of three counts of sexual assault in March of 2016. Two grad students reportedly saw him “thrusting” on top of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster outside a fraternity party in January 2015. The two students said they were bicycling past when they saw the incident, and intervened. The students then held Turner until police arrived.

Turner, who competed at the 2012 Olympic trials, was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

He could have been handed a maximum sentence of 14 years. Instead, Judge Persky gave him a prison sentence of six months, followed by a probation period.

Judge Aaron Persky cited Turner’s age at the time — 20 — and lack of criminal history as reasons for a lighter sentence.

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”

The case sparked public outcry, with many saying Turner’s affluent background helped him get a lighter sentence. That outcry was amplified when Turner was released from prison after serving only 3 months — half his sentence.

A petition to recall Persky, a possibility in California, where judges are elected, was signed by more than 1 million people just days after Turner’s sentencing.

“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” the petition read. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”

The victim in the case, who said she woke up after the attack with blood on her hands and had no memory of meeting Turner or being taken to a hospital, delivered a statement during the court proceedings, which she later provided to Buzzfeed News.

NBC Bay Area reported that John Tompkins, Turner’s legal adviser, said what happened wasn’t a crime. Tompkins says the facts don’t reflect the verdict, and that’s why they’re appealing.

Turner was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault, and had to register as a sex offender. At the time of his case, he was a decorated swimmer at Stanford. He was later banned for life from USA Swimming.