Dodd Among Three Legislators to Attempt to Eliminate Probation for Sexual Assault Cases

Bill Dodd speaking before Davis City Council
Bill Dodd speaking before Davis City Council

In the wake of what the legislators are calling a “shockingly lenient sentence given to Brock Turner by Judge Aaron Persky in the recent Stanford rape case,” Assemblymember Bill Dodd, along with Silicon Valley Assemblymember Evan Low and Senator Jerry Hill who represents Santa Clara and San Mateo, have introduced AB 2888.

According to a press release from Assemblymember Dodd’s office, the bill would close a “loophole” in sentencing that “will ensure that anyone convicted of sexual assault in California cannot be sentenced to probation.”

According to the release, the legislators worked with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen in crafting the proposal.

“We need to send the message that sexually assaulting vulnerable victims who are intoxicated or unconscious is a serious crime,” said Assemblymember Bill Dodd. “Letting a rapist off with probation and little jail time re-victimizes the victim, dissuades other victims from coming forward and sends the message that sexual assault is no big deal. Like many people across the nation, I was deeply disturbed by the sentence in the Brock Turner case. Our bill will help ensure that such lax sentencing doesn’t happen again.”

Under current law, not all forms of sexual assault involving penetration are included in the list of offenses that would trigger a mandatory denial of probation.  Current law clarifies that a defendant’s use of force triggers a mandatory prison sentence. However, when a victim is unconscious or severely intoxicated, the victim is unable to resist, and the perpetrator does not have to use force.

For example, a perpetrator at a college party who chooses to forcibly rape a conscious victim will go to prison upon conviction. However, a different perpetrator at the same party who chooses to watch and wait for a victim to pass out from intoxication before sexually assaulting her may get probation.

“Rapists like Brock Turner shouldn’t be let off with a slap on the wrist,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “Judge Persky’s ruling was unjustifiable and morally wrong, however, under current state law it was within his discretion.  Current law actually incentivizes rapists to get their victims intoxicated before assaulting them.  While we can’t go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again.”

“Sexual assault cases can be among the most troubling situations that law enforcement officials have to deal with. I believe perpetrators of sexual assault should receive sentences that the reflect the severity of their crimes,” said Napa County Sheriff John Robertson. “I applaud Assemblymember Dodd for introducing common sense legislation that will better serve our community and provide better justice for victims of sexual assault.”

In March of 2016, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student, was convicted on 3 felony counts of sexual assault of an intoxicated and unconscious woman. Despite the fact that the defendant was eligible for a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced the defendant to six months in jail and three years’ probation. The sentence has been criticized by many as unethically lenient, given the horrific nature of the crime.

“We need to change the law to protect the next Emily Doe from the next Brock Turner,”’ District Attorney Rosen said during a news event announcing the proposed legislation outside of the Palo Alto courthouse where Turner was tried and convicted. “Let’s give the next campus sexual assault victim no reason to fear that her attacker will end up walking around free after spending less time in jail than it takes to finish a single college semester.”

However, not everyone agrees that the sentencing in this case was problematic.

Santa Clara Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan wrote recently, “Mass incarceration is largely a result of judges who have either not utilized discretion in sentencing or who have been deprived by state legislatures of discretion.  This lack of discretion has manifested in draconian sentences and overfilled prisons.  Rather than using robotic, one size fits all punishment schemes, we want judges, like Judge Persky, to engage in thoughtful, case by case, individualized determinations of the appropriate sentence for a particular crime and particular offender.”

This legislation would close down that discretion that judges and departments of probation have. In this case, Judge Persky is being demonized for following the recommendations of the Santa Clara County Probation Department.

Mr. Khan writes that “after the jury found Mr. Turner guilty, the Santa Clara County Probation Department submitted a probation report along with a recommendation to the Judge about the appropriate sentence.  This report would include a summary of the offense, an interview with the victim, an interview and analysis of the offender and then a breakdown of statutory aggravating and mitigating factors and sentencing criteria.”

He notes, “With regard to Mr. Turner, the probation department recommended, based on all of the circumstances and factors of the case, that he receive a county jail sentence along with probation supervision.”

Mr. Khan writes, “The sentence Judge Persky imposed upon Mr. Turner is exactly what I would want for a public defender client of mine under similar circumstances. Mr. Turner, just 20 years old, had no prior criminal history and an exemplary record as a student-athlete. Probation, rather than prison, is the expectation for such an offender.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    While we can’t go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again.””

    Unless this comment is intended to refer only to the single convicted perpetrator, it is most certainly not true. Do we honestly believe that young men are so influenced by the fate of one young man ( whether imprisoned or not) that they will be deterred from encouraging a young woman to drink to the point of unconsciousness and then raping her ?  If this were true, we would have solved the problem of rape long ago.

    What is needed here is a cultural shift. We need to move away from the whole “boys will be boys” attitude clearly demonstrated by this young man’s father in his comments reducing rape to “promiscuity”. In view of these comments from the father, how do we expect the son to behave? This apparently was how he was raised. One has to look no further than how some major religious and political figures think and act with regard to women to understand that this is a cultural, not just an individual problem. Locking up one young man for extended periods of time will not even begin to address the underlying problem.

    1. nameless

      Tia: At what point do you want to hold this boy accountable?  How do you hold the father accountable?  I agree that the “boys will be boys” attitude needs to change, and one way to do it is to let the punishment fit the crime.  But I suspect the jurist in this case had the attitude, as many do, that if a girl is stupid enough to drink herself unconscious in mixed company, she gets what she deserves for being so foolish.

      1. David Greenwald

        My question is why do you think a six month jail term plus three years of probation is not holding him accountable? I get it that you would prefer more punishment, maybe I would too, but the current term does hold him accountable in that if he ever does it again he will face a much more serious penalty.

      2. Tia Will


        I want to hold him “accountable” immediately. But I do not believe that “punishment” especially imprisonment should be equated with accountability. Incarceration imposes no accountability whatsoever. It mere isolates in a hell hole from which very little rehabilitation is possible and absolutely no accountability in the sense of understanding, owning, and helping to prevent others from committing the same action is expected.

        I have already said how I would approach this problem. House arrest with extensive ( life long would be fine with me) community service directed at helping others to understand the consequences of their actions. You could throw in alcohol and drug abstinence regularly monitored as a further acknowledgement that he is an individual proven to not be able to manage the effects of mood altering drugs.

        1. sisterhood

          Tia, I agree. And perhaps he should have to speak to junior high and high school students re: his experience.  I also believe we must require junior high & high school p.e. classes in self defense. Both sexes, required curriculum.

      3. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

        To say that a female who gets herself so drunk she cannot fend for herself deserves what she got – which is in this case raped – is so disturbing! So if the Stanford swinner would have gotten raped himself would he have deserved that too? Isn’t  it better to have a society where we say  “Let’s treat each other with respect and dignity  and if you see someone incoherent from having too much alcohol then get them help. Don’t rape or abuse them, but get them a friend, a cab or even a 911 call if necessary.”

        1. quielo

          A man or woman who gets so drunk they cannot fend for themselves is likely to have a very negative experience of some type. Whether that is an assault, a sexual assault, a car accident, drowning in their own puke, or just falling down the stairs, they are looking for a bad time. Hanging out with other people in the same condition multiples the odds.

        2. Eric Gelber

          quielo: Yes, people who are drunk are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and victimized by unscrupulous individuals. That doesn’t make them fair game. The same could be said of the elderly, children, people with disabilities, etc. who are likewise vulnerable. Let’s not blame victims. Responsibility lies with the perpetrators, period.

        3. quielo

          Eric Gelber, people who drink or use to excess can be victims and they are often perpetrators as well. They are likely to run you over and create other random mayhem. They should not do that.

        4. sisterhood

          quielo, if you forget to lock your car, or turn on your home’s alarm/ security system,  I guess you should take responsibility for your bad choices/mistakes when you are the victim of a burglary/car theft. Same if you do not lock your bicycle properly. Take responsibility for the crime, right?

        5. quielo

          sisterhood:  “I guess you should take responsibility for your bad choices/mistakes when you are the victim of a burglary/car theft.” Of course. This is not to say that the person who stole my car should not be punished, however I need to take responsibility for my own contributing actions.

    2. sisterhood

      I’m wondering what laws are in place to help the mentally ill men who get off on raping an unconscious woman, or man. After they leave prison, and have possibly been physically /sexually assaulted, what systems are in place?

      I consider myself fortunate to be allowed to attend and observe group counseling sessions in Solano Co. They were sessions for people on the sex offender registry. The 2 counselors were doing the best they could. But the group was between 6 – 8 men. The counseling,  imho, was not enough to deter some of the mens’ past behavior from recurring.

      Ironically,  some of the men who had to go back to county were men who were doing their homework,  had probably not re-offended, but did not have the funds to pay for the counseling sessions.

      What systems are in place for assailants who sincerely want to change their mentally ill driven behavior?


  2. nameless

    When judges give ridiculously lenient sentences, this is the sort of understandable backlash to be expected.  A lenient sentence of this nature does send the message that it is better to get your victim intoxicated and passed out before you rape her than to rape by force when conscious.

    1. The Pugilist

      You’re presupposing its ridiculously lenient.  But the system is already in place if he commits another crime that he would get nailed, so I’m not sure what an initial harsh sentence buys you.

    2. sisterhood

      The sex offender registry is a joke. It is unfair. It is racist. It is ridiculous.

      Murderers are not on a registry when they’re done serving their sentence.  Dangerous repeat offenders with multiple DUI’s are not placed on a lifetime registry.

      It is wrong and it is unjust.

      1. nameless

        Believe it or not, I agree with you.  For instance someone who is 17 and found guilty of statutory rape for having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend has to register as a sex offender along with a 35 year old violent serial rapist.

        1. sisterhood

          Does your family have “the right to know” if a murderer who served all his time moves next door? A convicted heroin/oxy dealer? A repeat d.u.i. offender, who could run his car into you?

          The sex offender registry is unjust.

        2. sisterhood

          Does your family have “the right to know” if a murderer who served all his time moves next door? A convicted heroin/oxy dealer? A repeat d.u.i. offender, who could run his car into you?

          The sex offender registry is unjust.

        3. Barack Palin

          Yes I would like to know those things too but right now unfortunately that’s not in the cards but at least I can know what scumbag sex offenders are in my community and I’m thankful for that.

        4. sisterhood


          What would you do in this scenario? You’re single, you go on a date. For whatever reason the woman doesn’t like you. A few days later, she tells law enforcement you put something in her drink & date raped her. The D.A. offers you a plea, 6 months in county jail, plea no contest, & register as a sex offender. Versus minimum 7 years in state prison, if the jury believes her story.

          1. David Greenwald

            Under this law, you wouldn’t be able to plead to 6 months in the county jail

  3. Robert Canning

    As usual, into the breach steps legislators who want to appear sympathetic and responsive to unfortunate travesties and the victims of them.  The move to remove probation as an option in these cases sounds a lot like: “We need to get tougher on crime.”  But there are unintended consequences of such moves as we saw in the late 1980’s and 90’s when the legislature tinkered ad infinitum with the penal code and we ended up with almost 175,000 inmates triple-bunked in prison gyms around the state. As quoted in a New Yorker comment last week about these unintended consequences, a Georgetown law professor remarked: “The people who would suffer most from this punitiveness would not be white frat boys at frat parties,” but black and Latino men who make up about 60% of the population in jails. Maybe this isn’t about the laws, but having judges (and probation officers who write sentencing reports) be a bit (or maybe a lot) less biased.

  4. Robert Canning

    And one more thought: Having looked at hundreds of rap sheets over the years I am sometimes amazed at the number (and type) of felony arrests that end up with probation. Crimes just as violent as rape of an unconscious women go to probation on a daily basis. If we deny probation as an option to judges and DAs we will go back to the bad old days of “lock ’em up and throw away the key.”

    1. The Pugilist

      You make a lot of good points, Robert.  I would point out two things here.  First, judges and probation departments have access to far more information than the citizens and lawmakers complaining about the sentencing.  Second, you take probation off the table, you may eliminate the possibility of plea agreements in tough cases.  So you will see more marginal cases go to trial, since the defendant has nothing to lose.  More victims will be re-traumatized by taking the stand.  And in the end, in a lot of these cases, you may get acquittals, and so there is no justice for the victim at all.

  5. South of Davis

    Robert wrote:

    > Crimes just as violent as rape of an unconscious women

    > go to probation on a daily basis.

    What we need to do is let the non violent people out of jail to make room for the rapists…

    I’m fine with guy who got caught with a couple grams of coke on probation, but we need to lock up the rapists…

  6. Eric Gelber

    This is one of those instances that illustrates the adage, bad cases make bad law. We already incarcerate more people than any nation on earth. Taking away discretion from judges is not the answer, and will exacerbate the problem of overcrowded prisons.

  7. Marina Kalugin

    interesting topic, and interesting take by Dodd

    if  a “young” guy in his early 20s has the misfortune of being around a promiscuous teen who is under legal age in CA, his life may and will be ruined by the laws as they are now….

    there is a well known case involving UCD in this kind of matter….back from the early 90s…

    the guy was in love, and the girl was the instigator….and yet, when the mother found out, it was over for the guy….  literally and figuratively…

    The guy worked in my department…and was a truly wonderful person and a dear friend…

    he did nothing wrong, except was not able to resist the lures of this crazy underage girl, who had slept with many others before my friend…

    my sons were  young at the time, and they learned the lesson very fast….

    1. sisterhood

      You have no time? You’ve spent a lot of your time writing inflammatory remarks here. I’ve read all about the Stanford case. It didn’t take that long.

  8. Marina Kalugin

    PS>   there is the male justification  “does no really mean no?”  sometimes the first few nos don’t really mean no…  maybe it really means, “I haven’t had enough to drink yet”….or “where is the dinner I was promised?”…

    or, “really cheapskate, I am going to put out for the likes of someone who won’t spend a dime on me?

    how about,  “if she didn’t dress like a slut, this would not have happened”

    but, on the flip side, was the woman actually hoping to be laid, and yet changed her mind “along the way”….or whatever.

    if a date rape drug was used,  now that could be compelling evidence….was it?

    I understand that both men and women now use those kinds of drugs to get their way…

    I have guy friends who have shared that info with me about prior wives or prior relationships…..who woulda known?

        1. sisterhood

          It’s strange that you have time to write of pubescent 8 and 9 year old girls but you claim you have no time to read the facts/info, yet you judge. I have a grip, btw.

    1. sisterhood

      Wtf does it matter when a young girl goes through puberty? Does that make a 9 year old fair game to be brutally assaulted?

      Are you just writing this sh*t to annoy everyone? Shame.

  9. Marina Kalugin

    if one wants to scope out property values, all one has to do is look at the registry …  LOL

    and that also has many people on it who lived in the wrong place at the wrong time…

    why is 16 the age of consent in CA and in other states, it is as low as 12-13?

    have you seen girls these days who are through puberty at 8 or 9?

    one can thank the BPA and “food-like” substance industries for those “endocrine” disrupter toxins everywhere…

    can one even judge any age any more without looking at ID????? and even with the fake IDs so prevalent…can that be trusted?     nahhhh

      1. sisterhood

        I guess I missed something.  Who said the young woman who was raped next to a garbage dumpster gave consent? How many young women think it’s romantic, or even just hot, to have sex next to a garbage dumpster? I doubt she gave even a drunken verbal “yes” to her assailant.

        But I still think the offender registry is a deplorable travesty of justice.

        1. The Pugilist

          The issue here for this legislation is very simple – do you believe a judge and a department of probation are in the best position to make the judgement of sentencing or the legislature making a blanket ruling.

    1. sisterhood

      Wtf does it matter when a young girl goes through puberty? Does that make a 9 year old fair game to be brutally assaulted?

      Are you just writing this sh*t to annoy everyone? Shame.

  10. Marina Kalugin

    sorry if you are so easily annoyed, sister….these are true life quotes from perps who used some of them…  over the not so long ago years.

    and, for whoever said the age of consent in CA is 18, is it really now?   it used to be 16…

    there are different ages  for different things….and smoking is now 21….but that never stopped young teens from smoking either…

    the age of puberty makes a difference as that is when hormones start acting up….thus more girls get aggressive at younger ages…did you ever study any biological science, sister? or is all of this stuff so foreign to you?

    as I said very early on, I am not familiar with the Stanford case, but since I was not there, and no one else here has come forward, I was discussing the various other issues surrounding the travesty of the sex registry and so forth….





    1. sisterhood

      Omg do you even realize you are saying an 8 or 9 year old girl has raging hormones and may deserve getting sexually violated? I feel kinda sick to my stomach, reading your crap. I’m out of here.

      Have  a good weekend, everyone.

    2. sisterhood

      I suggest you read Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Collective.

      I spent many years of my career working for the Dept. Health Serv. I don’t need to study biology but you do.

      Your remarks re pubescent 8 and 9 year old girls, being sexually aggressive, etc. are truly disturbing and sick…

  11. nameless

    Marina Kalugin: “the age of puberty makes a difference as that is when hormones start acting up….thus more girls get aggressive at younger ages…did you ever study any biological science, sister? or is all of this stuff so foreign to you?

    A girl under the age of 18 CANNOT GIVE CONSENT TO HAVE SEX!  I don’t care how much her “hormones are acting up”, it matters not one whit from a legal perspective.  If young men are tempted by a young girl under age 18, they need to practice self control or suffer the legal consequences.  No one FORCED the young men into having sex with a minor…

    1. sisterhood

      Thank you. Perhaps she’ll understand it better the way you replied.

      I still strongly recommend the book, Our Bodies, Ourselves. Imho it may help Marina comprehend this issue, and others, relating to female sexuality. It especially may help her to understand female puberty, and perhaps she will understand better that an eight year old girl, no matter if she has gone through an early puberty or not, no matter how “sexually agressive”, CANNOT give consent.
      I wish Tia would weigh in on some of Marina’s comments, with her invaluable expertise on this subjett.

  12. Jerry Waszczuk

    “Amid anger over the short sentence a Santa Clara, Calif., judge gave Stanford swimmer-turned-sex-offender Brock Turner, another California judge is also coming under scrutiny.
    Bill Cosby probably is looking for judge like Arron Persky or Scott Steiner.

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