Digging deeper: sex assault sentences in Texas

12News explores whether Texas has a loophole similar to the one that resulted in Brock Turner's six-month jail sentence.

On Friday, the former Stanford University swimmer who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman got out of jail just three months after a judge sentenced him to six months behind bars. Brock Turner was released to due "good behavior."

"Frustration is probably one of the main feelings," said Kim Pipkin, assistant district attorney in Jefferson County. "How do I turn around and tell the next victim that it's worth it?"

"This kind of case does not help at all," said Cheryl Williams, the executive director the the Crisis Center in Beaumont.

Williams pointed out that Turner's victim will suffer a much lengthier sentence.

"She's the person who's going to have to deal with rape trauma syndrome, a series of emotions that affect victims in various ways, sometimes for the rest of their lives," she said.

California law imposes a prison sentence only when physical force is used during a rape. The judge in Turner's case ruled that because the victim was unconscious, the 22-year-old athlete didn't use force. 12News wanted to know: does Texas have something similar on the books?
 
"Texas is taking a hard-line stance on these cases," said Pipkin.
 
The 7-year attorney says, according to what she's read, a sentence for sex assault in California could be two years, six years or a maximum eight years in prison.
 
"In Texas, the range of punishment would be a minimum of two years, maximum of 20 years," she said.
 
In the case of aggravated sexual assault when there are additional factors such as threats, a deadly weapon or a child younger than 14, Texas can send a rapist away for life.
 
"It's never going to seem like enough, no matter what kind of sentence we give somebody," Pipkin said.
 
Prosecutors and advocates don't want the Turner case to discourage sex assault victims from coming forward.
 
"Every situation you go through and every court proceeding does not end that way," Williams said.
 
Just as in California, Texas offenders can get up to half their sentence dropped due to good behavior. That means someone sentenced to the Texas minimum of two years could possibly serve just a year behind bars.
 
 
Also, for victims of sex assault, the Crisis Center offers a 24-hour hotline: 409-835-3355.

(© 2016 KBMT)


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