Critics of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who oversaw the controversial Stanford rape case, are calling into question the judge's harsher sentencing on a similar sexual assault case.
Raul Ramirez, a 32-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, was convicted of sexually assaulting his female roommate and will be sentenced to three years in state prison as part of a plea agreement signed in March, according to documents obtained by The Guardian.
Although Ramirez's ruling still needs to be finalized by Persky, it comes as a sharp contrast from the sixth months in county jail with probation that Persky had sentenced to Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
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The Guardian also reported that Ramirez's bail was set at $200,000 — $50,000 more than Turner's.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has been leading the charge to recall Persky, told TheWrap that Ramirez's sentencing was evidence that Persky was biased in his ruling on the Turner case.
"If he wasn't, these sentences would look more similar to each other," Dauber said. "The crimes are quite similar."
Defense attorney Alexander Cross, who briefly represented Ramirez while his family could afford a private attorney, told The Guardian that Ramirez's sentencing was standard, but Turner's was an anomaly.
Persky is prohibited from commenting on pending cases.
Police reports obtained by The Guardian indicate that Ramirez had sent the roommate a "love letter" before entering her bedroom and fingering her against her will for roughly five to 10 minutes. It wasn't until the victim started crying that Ramirez stopped, the report said.
The victim later called the police to report that Ramirez had sexually assaulted her, and he was arrested at his home in November 2014.
Like Turner, Ramirez did not have a previous criminal record of serious or violent felonies. But while Turner repeatedly blamed party culture and excessive drinking for the assault, Ramirez pleaded guilty to the crime and apologized, according to police accounts.
Because Ramirez pleaded guilty following his arrest, his case was not taken to trial and his conviction was not determined by a jury, which was the case for Turner.
Dauber said that had Persky wanted to reduce Ramirez's sentencing, he had the power to easily do so.
During the plea negotiations, the prosecutor, defense attorney, and presiding judge determine what the defendant will plead guilty to.
In Ramirez's case, he was charged on two accounts: Assault with intent to commit rape or other specified forced sexual acts (California Penal Code 220) and sexual penetration by foreign object by force, fear, or threats (Penal Code 289a).
With the 289a charge, a three-year prison sentence is mandatory, Dauber said. But in Ramirez's plea negotiation, the 220 charge — the same offense Turner was convicted of — was dropped in exchange for a plea to the 289a.
"Had he wanted to make it happen, there's an obvious, simple and easy route to that, which was to have [Ramirez] plead to the 220 rather than the 289," Dauber said. "The judge could have found that this was an 'unusual case' and that it would be in the best interest of justice for him to have probation, just as he found that for Turner."
Dauber also pointed to the fact that Ramirez pleaded guilty, expressed remorse and apologized for sexually assaulting his roommate as another example of Persky's bias.
"Ordinarily, pleading guilty entitles you to extra consideration for leniency. Mr. Turner on the other hand, has to this day not accepted responsibility for sexual assault, has never admitted to sexual assault, has never apologized for sexual assault, and forced his matter to trial rather than plead guilty," Dauber said.
Though Dauber agreed with the sentence that was placed on Ramirez, she said the comparison of the two cases demonstrated how Turner's lenient sentence was an anomaly.
"Of these two individuals, it seems to me that the individual who admitted to his offense and apologized for it immediately, took responsibility and pleaded guilty should have been entitled to greater leniency, which makes the bias all the more apparent," she said. "[Turner's sentence] is not a sentence that would be given to a defendant who is not an elite, privileged athlete at Stanford."
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