BELLBROOK, Ohio — One of America’s most famous rapists is about to serve the rest of his sentence in an unsuspecting small town in the heartland.
Brock Allen Turner, the ex-Stanford University swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman while she was unconscious, will be released from jail Friday and is expected to return to his family’s home in Sugarcreek Township, southeast of Dayton, where he will spend three years on probation.
Still, despite the publicity dogging the case, some of the Turners’ neighbors in their leafy, upper-middle-class neighborhood were not familiar with the case nor knew that the family lived in the area. Others who knew about the case were hesitant to talk publicly about it. Several people in the neighborhood said they didn’t want to comment.
Turner spent the past three months in California’s Santa Clara County jail, or half of his six-month sentence, which prompted widespread outcry from people who believed it was too lenient. Prosecutors argued for a six-year prison sentence after Turner was convicted of three felony counts for sexually assaulting the woman, who was found unresponsive and partially clothed beside a dumpster outside a fraternity house. But Judge Aaron Persky agreed with the recommendations in Turner’s probation report and found there were “unusual circumstances” that called for jail time and probation (PDF).
Down the street about a mile from Turner’s neighborhood, a woman sitting outside an ice cream parlor with two young children was shocked to learn Turner would be living in the area.
“It doesn’t make me comfortable he’s here,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because of the controversy surrounding the case.
Turner will be required to register as a sex offender for life. He will have to update his registration in Ohio every 90 days, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. While on probation, he will be required to undergo sex offender treatment.
While the woman who spoke to The Daily Beast believed Turner should be serving more time, she also said he did not deserve to be vilified in the media.
“I think rape in general should carry much longer terms,” she said, noting nonviolent offenders often receive much harsher sentences than the one Turner received. “Because the consequences are so minimal, I think that’s why it’s so common.”
Turner was arrested on Jan. 18, 2015, after two Stanford students witnessed him “thrusting” on top of an unconscious woman beside a dumpster. He was convicted of three felony counts—assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person—after a three-week jury trial.
The outrage over his light sentence prompted California lawmakers on Monday to approve a bill that would make prison time mandatory for persons guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. A Stanford professor started a campaign to recall Judge Persky before he voluntarily transferred to civil court.
The woman said she believed Turner hadn’t taken “ownership” of his crime, either. According to a transcript of the June hearing in which Turner was sentenced, Turner addressed the court, apologizing for his “actions,” though he never said exactly which actions he meant. He then offered to “teach and educate college students about the dangers of alcohol, to try and prevent any more families’ lives to be ruined.” Turner claimed during the jury trial the woman had verbally consented to the sexual activity.
Since Turner’s sentencing in June, “several small, uneventful demonstrations” have taken place outside the Turners’ home in Sugarcreek Township, said police chief Michael Brown. Turner’s parents also did not escape criticism over the course of their son’s case. Turner’s father characterized the assault as “20 minutes of action” in a letter to the judge submitted before sentencing, which sparked further public outcry.
Lessa Leigh of Cincinnati was among the protesters outside the Turners’ home in June.
“Given the severity of the crime and the absolute callousness of the entire family’s response, we felt that protesting the family was appropriate,” Leigh said, referring in part to the line from Turner’s father’s letter.
Mike Sabin, the owner of BellHOP Cafe, was reluctant to give his opinion on the case but said he had heard “concern [Turner] got a fairly light sentence” from community members.
Others were more outspoken.
“I think he should’ve served more time,” Ryan Vincent told The Daily Beast while filling up his pickup at the gas station in Bellbrook. “I think that’s not fair to the victim and to other people who have committed the same crime.”
Halie Hatfield, an attendant at the gas station, said she also was disappointed by the sentence.
“I’d be furious if I were her family,” she said, referring to the victim.
—with additional reporting by Kelly Weill