California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation to broaden the state’s legal definition of rape and mandate prison if the victim was unconscious, following a furor over a Stanford University sexual assault case.
Lawmakers passed the two bills in response to a six-month sentence a Northern California judge this year gave Brock Turner, a former swimmer convicted of a sexual assault of an unconscious woman at the elite university, in a case that drew widespread condemnation.
The sentence, which was lighter than prison terms given at many US sexual assault trials, generated harsh scrutiny after the online publication of a harrowing statement the victim gave in court describing the devastating effects of the assault.
The outcry over the sentence became a central part of a growing movement to combat sexual assault on US college campuses.
The statement of the victim inspired US Vice President Joe Biden to write an open letter praising her as courageous.
People from a number of countries have expressed support on social media for the victim, including women in China, who took photographs of themselves holding signs against rape.
One bill signed by Brown changed California law to stipulate that prosecutors and juries may consider any sexual assault to be rape, including penetration with a foreign object. State law had previously defined rape more narrowly, as nonconsensual sexual intercourse.
In the Stanford case, Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. Prosecutors did not move forward with rape charges, because he was not believed to have penetrated the victim with his penis.
Brown also signed a separate bill to place assault of an unconscious person on a list of sexual crimes for which judges are forbidden to grant probation or parole.
The governor in a signing statement said he usually opposes expanding the number of crimes with a mandatory minimum.
However, the legislation “brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar,” Brown wrote.
Turner, 21, sexually assaulted the victim in the Stanford case outside of a fraternity party last year.
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