VP Joe Biden praises courage of woman assaulted by Brock Turner

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Vice President Joe Biden released an open letter Thursday to the woman who was sexually assaulted while unconscious by former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, praising her courage for speaking out.

"I do not know your name -- but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write," Biden wrote in the letter published by BuzzFeed News.

"I am in awe of your courage for speaking out -- for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. And I am filled with furious anger -- both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth."

The woman read a searing message that has gained widespread attention to Turner during his sentencing, detailing the effect the assault has had on her life and describing her anger and emptiness.

"It must have been wrenching -- to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking," wrote Biden, who penned the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and is involved in the White House's "It's On Us" campaign against campus sexual assault. "You are a warrior -- with a solid steel spine."

The case against Turner, a one-time Olympic hopeful, has gripped the country, with letters to a judge from Turner's family and friends drawing outrage from critics who say they are shifting blame from a 20-year-old man who won't take responsibility for his actions. With the outcry growing, a high school guidance counselor and a childhood friend have apologized for writing letters of support urging leniency for Turner.

Taking into account more than three dozen letters from character witnesses and a recommendation from the county probation department, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years' probation for attacking the 23-year-old woman behind a campus dumpster in January 2015. He tried to flee, but other students tackled him and pinned him down until police arrived.

Prosecutors had asked for six years in prison, and the judge's sentence triggered criticism that a star athlete from a privileged background had gotten special treatment. The judge cited Turner's clean criminal record and the effect the conviction will have on his life.

Turner will serve only three months behind bars, with his expected release date listed as Sept. 2, according to online inmate records. County jail inmates serve 50 percent of their sentences if they keep a clean disciplinary record.

Defendants can solicit letters of support from family, friends and others for judges to consider before sentencing. In Turner's case, one of them came from Kelly Owens, a guidance counselor at Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, which Turner attended.

She told the court that her former student was "absolutely undeserving of the outcome" of a jury trial that resulted in his conviction on three felony counts of sexual assault.

"I plead with you to consider the good things -- the positive contributions -- he can make to his community if given a chance to reclaim his life," Owens wrote.

Her school district said in a prepared statement Wednesday that she regrets writing a letter to the judge and acknowledged it was a mistake.

"Of course he should be held accountable," Oakwood City School District Superintendent Kyle Ramey quoted Owens as saying. "I am truly sorry for the additional pain my letter has caused."

Leslie Rasmussen, a childhood friend of Turner's, also faced blowback for writing a supportive letter. She had blamed campus drinking culture and political correctness for his drunken life choices.

"I was not there that night. I had no right to make any assumptions about the situation," read a posting Wednesday on a Facebook page that appears to be Rasmussen's. "Most importantly, 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."

People angry about Rasmussen's letter had taken to social media to demand her indie rock band, Good English, be dumped from at least four shows that included some Brooklyn clubs hosting a small music festival.

Most prominently, Turner's father wrote a letter to the judge defending his son and echoing the dozens of other letters from friends and mentors.

"His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of his life," Dan A. Turner wrote. "The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.