Two people who gave the judge character witness letters about the Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman said they regret their statements on June 7.
The women who supported Brock Turner were Kelly Owens, his guidance counselor when he went to Oakwood High School, near Dayton, Ohio, and Leslie Rasmussen a drummer in the indie rock band Good English, who was Turner’s classmate.
After backlash and venue cancellations, Rasmussen said she now regrets supporting Turner.
“I did not acknowledge strongly enough the severity of Brock’s crime and the suffering and pain that his victim endured, and for that lack of acknowledgement, I am deeply sorry,” said Rasmussen, 20, in a post on Facebook.
“I fully understand the outrage over Brock’s sentencing and my statement. I can only say that I am committed to learning from this mistake. I am 20 years old, and it has never been more clear to me that I still have much to learn,” she said.
Turner, then-19, sexually assaulted a woman after a party on campus on Jan. 17, 2015. Two PhD students who were riding their bikes found Turner assaulting the woman and intervened. They called the authorities and Turner was arrested that night.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, following the recommendation of the county’s probation department, sentenced Turner to 6 months in jail and 3 years probation on June 2. The former swimmer must register for life as a sex offender after being convicted of three felony counts of assault and attempted rape. The initial rape charges were dropped in October 2015.
Turner is now appealing his conviction.
Rasmussen wrote character statements for Turner along with at 39 others for the case.
In her letter to the judge, she blamed alcohol and the party culture on campuses for Turner’s actions.
“I have had the unique opportunity to observe over 10 years of public American drinking culture and the problems that invariably arise through alcohol misuse. I have watched friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers transform before my eyes over the course of sometimes very short periods of time, into people I could barely recognize as a result of alcohol overconsumption,” she said.
“Additionally, I have grown up and currently reside in a university town that is affected every year by the tragic consequences resulting from undergraduate students’ excessive enthusiasm for binge drinking. Student arrests, violence, injuries, and sexual assaults occur with some regularity, and I have often wondered why this culture continues to thrive seemingly unquestioned and unchecked,” added Rasmussen.
In her post, she said she did not support Turner’s actions.
“I know that Brock Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault. I realize that this crime caused enormous pain for the victim. I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender,”
She then went on to explain how her witness statement has affected her.
“Now, my choices to defer college to write and play music, to finally introduce 10 years of hard work to a national audience while working consistently and intentionally on my own personal and professional integrity, has led to an uproar of judgement and hatred unleashed on me, my band and my family,” she said.
Former Guidance Counselor Apologizes
Turner’s former guidance counselor also regrets her statement for the disgraced athlete.
Owens wrote an apology to the school district on June 7, according to ABC.
“In the statement I submitted to the Judge during the criminal proceedings and before sentencing referencing Brock’s character, I made a mistake,” she wrote.
“Of course he should be held accountable. I pray for the victim, her family and all those affected by this horrible event. I am truly sorry for the additional pain my statement has caused. I tell my students they have to be accountable, and Brock is no exception,” added Owens.
The counselor had said in her statement that the former swimmer was an “exceptional student” and “a young man of character” who is “absolutely undeserving of the outcome.”
Meanwhile, the judge who convicted Turner has received threats by anonymous callers after backlash from people, who say the sentence was too light.