Problems in the Stanford Sexual Assault Case

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post Stuart Taylor, Jr. and I discuss the Brock Turner case at Stanford. We argue that the case proves that campus felonies like sexual assault are better handled by the criminal justice system than by campus tribunals—in no small measure because the public can have confidence in the Turner verdict in a way that would have been inconceivable with Stanford’s notoriously one-sided campus disciplinary process. The case thus gives the lie to campus rape groups like Know Your IX and their academic supporters, such as Stanford Law’s Michele Dauber, who have attempted to delegitimize the role of the police in handling campus felonies, at least when the felony is sexual assault.
A few other points from the case that deserve a mention:

  • The 6-month sentence imposed on Turner (along with a lifetime requirement that he register as a sex offender) has triggered a severe backlash. Given the backlash, as Jason Willick first pointed out, it’s very difficult to comprehend the far more restrained response to the 6-month sentence imposed on former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu. By virtually any measurement, Ukwuachu’s case (which, like Turner’s, also received extensive media attention) was more severe: the nature of his assault appears to have involved more violence; alcohol does not seem to have played any role in his crime; he seemed to have had a pattern of treating women violently; and he had no remarks comparable to Turner’s expression of remorse. Yet there was no national campaign to recall the judge in the Ukwuachu case, nor was his photograph regularly used in social media with a “rapist” theme.It would be interesting to hear from the accusers’ rights movement, and their media and academic allies, why they responded to the two sentences so differently. (I also agree, by the way, with the inappropriateness of the recall campaign against the judge, though I consider the sentence for Turner—like the sentence for Ukwuachu—too lenient.)
  • Before the judge issued his sentence, Michele Dauber, law professor at Stanford, wrote a letter to the judge demanding that Turner spend more time in jail than what the probation office recommended. Dauber said that she wrote because of her expertise on the issue—without revealing that she had previously disparaged the ability of the same prosecutor’s office that successfully tried Turner to handle campus rape cases.In her letter, Dauber conceded (correctly) that “the facts here are in some ways especially egregious when compared with many other assaults on campus.” She cited the public nature of the crime, and the fact that Turner and his victim were strangers. Just over a page later, however, Dauber suggested that “at Stanford, assaults that are very similar to this case are unfortunately all too frequent.” [emphasis added] Really? Cases similar to public assaults of strangers are “frequent” at Stanford?
  • In her letter, Dauber asserted, remarkably, that students who have committed sexual assault at Stanford “typically have participated in athletics.” [emphasis added] She cited no evidence for this claim. Given that the data on which such a claim could be based is confidential, Dauber either: (a) simply misled a judge; or (b) inappropriately revealed protected information. I’d bet on (a).
  • The Stanford Law professor justified her demand for a lengthier sentence (it’s worth pausing to consider the extraordinary nature of a high-profile left-wing law professor writing a judge to demand a sentence for a convicted criminal longer than the probation office recommended) by citing deterrence. It’s not clear why potential Stanford rapists would be deterred by seeing a classmate get a three-year sentence (plus lifetime as a sex offender, loss of a degree, loss of ability to compete as an intercollegiate athlete, and massive media exposure as a rapist) but would not be deterred by seeing a classmate get a six-month sentence (plus lifetime as a sex offender, loss of a college degree, loss of ability to compete as an intercollegiate athlete, and massive media exposure as a rapist). Dauber did not explain how she reached her deterrence evaluation.
  • Dauber concluded by claiming that “Turner will have plenty of opportunity to finish his education.” It’s not clear what academic universe she lives in, but it’s hard to believe (and for very good reason) that many universities will accept a convicted sex criminal who has a lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender. But—much like Jared Polis in his infamous 2015 remarks—it’s critical for figures like Dauber to keep alive the myth that colleges routinely admit students found guilty of sexual assault.


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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8 thoughts on “Problems in the Stanford Sexual Assault Case

  1. He must register as a sex offender for life. That’s not lenient. He can’t walk onto campuses anywhere. Why didn’t media cover this more?

  2. Brock Turner was framed. None in the media covered the 402 challenge or the 13th Motion in Limine. Alcohol was a key factor. Why wasn’t the voluntary intoxication defense used? This should have been nothing more than drunk and disorderly. No DNA evidence. Yet…to this day, he’s viewed as a rapist. But there was no rape. Professor Dauber’s “Trial by Twitter” branded him forever as a rapist.

  3. Professor Dauber wrote, “As an elite college athlete, Turner is someone who has benefitted from many advantages in his life. He has a loving and supportive family; it is of course upsetting to see the pain that he has caused them by committing this crime. But these are not advantages that justify leniency. If anything, they suggest that he is entitled to less latitude than someone who was born into poverty, gangs, and drugs and had little choice but to participate in crime in order to survive. Turner had every advantage in life and he squandered it, which only adds insult to society’s injury and the injury of his victim.” This is a troubling passage on at least two fronts. One is that everyone should be equal before the law, yet Dauber is suggesting otherwise. Two is that someone born into poverty might well deserve leniency for a burglary, but the connection to sexual assault is nonexistent.

  4. Did you know that Dauber was a family friend of the victim?

    Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, a family friend of the victim who also spoke at Friday’s petition delivery, is leading an effort that would allow Santa Clara County voters to recall Persky.

    1. She makes that claim – the alleged victim grew up in Palo Alto – but the only action connection she has given us is Dauber took about a dozen kids on a camping trip, including her daughter and “Emily Doe “about ten years back. Dauber’s history at Stanford, again and again and again, is to find ANY woman who is alleging she is a victim of assault and take up her cause – no matter how weak. I think she heard about an arrest for assault, got the name (improperly probably) then went to Emily Doe and made a deal with her – I will use you as a poster child for assault – in return I will protect your reputation – keep the alcoholism out of the media (“victim blaming”) and keep the public from suspecting you consented – the two things Emily Doe wants the most it appears.

  5. On Daubner’s comments that assaulter are typically athletes, she could have been correct, and still be misleading.

    She could also say accurately that people who commit crimes on campus are typically middle to upper middle class, white, and female. We can say that because the largest single population is female in those income ranges, and if we are not specific about the nature of the crimes (including jaywalking, underaged drinking, etc.) you capture the entire population of which women are the majority (60%) in universities.

    What it doesn’t say is whether they are indexing higher in these crimes than their demographic.

    So back to her subterfuge: if men at school are typically involved in athletics (which they are), then it follows that those accused of ANY crime will also follow that pattern. What it doesn’t say is whether there’s any causation or over representation.

    What’s more telling, is whether athletes are more like to commit crimes than people who are not athletes. Ah… but she didn’t say that, did she.

  6. Finally a cogent response to counter the lemming-like rush to excoriate and punish this young man, and the judge. Thank you! However, I have to disagree with your consideration that the sentence was too lenient. The (older) woman had no recollection of the events that transpired as she had blacked out from consuming large quantities of alcohol, first at home and then at the frat party that she crashed. And she admitted on the stand that she had a history of blacking out at college parties from drinking. Thus there was only one voice testifying to the events leading up to the time that the woman was found unconscious with Mr. Turner atop; and it was his. Mr. Turner was selectively believed by the jury when he brought forth on his own that he had touched the woman’s privates with his hand, and thus the conviction of sexual assault (but not rape, contrary to virtually all of the media headlines of the Stanford “rapist”). Yet, despite there was no “she said” to counter his claim that this was a consensual encounter, he was not believed in this part of his statement. He was also not believed when he stated that he had go up to look for a place to throw up when he was tackled by one of the graduate students that came across the couple. The graduate students’ account of what transpired raises reasonable doubt because their distance from the location in the middle of the night, and because Mr. Turner was brought down relatively close by despite the claim that he, a fit athlete, was running away when confronted. Mr. Turner’s conviction could possibly be overturned in an appeal, unless the McCarthy tactics by Professor Dauber put fear into the judiciary.

  7. Three years is an eternity (I do jail ministry); six months is “just around the corner.” Three years means prison. Six months means a local jail. The difference is profound. If you don’t believe me, spend a weekend there.

    For the rest, my advice to our daughter at Stanford is simple: if they do Porn, Avoid them like the plague. Porn, more than alcohol, is the major contributing factor to date rape, but, of course, “diversity” insists that we dare not discuss it.

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