US Vice-President Joe Biden, celebrities join outcry over Stanford sex assault case

US Vice-President Joe Biden speaks at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, US, June 6.
US Vice-President Joe Biden speaks at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, US, June 6. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Politicians and celebrities, including US Vice-President Joe Biden, joined the outpouring of support for the victim in the Stanford University sexual assault case, in which the attacker received a six-month jail sentence widely criticised as too lenient.

The online community has reacted with anger to the sentence Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky handed down last week on former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, 20, in the sexual assault of an unconscious woman in January 2015.

Prosecutors had sought a six-year prison term for Turner.

BuzzFeed on Thursday published an open letter by Biden addressing the victim. "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," Biden wrote.

A probation report submitted to the judge that recommended against sending Turner to prison said "this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant's level of intoxication."

Republican US Representative Ted Poe from Texas called for Persky to be removed from office and demanded the sentence be overturned in favor of harsher punishment.

"The punishment for rape should be longer than a semester of college," Poe, a former judge, said in the House of Representatives.

The uproar over the sentence, fueled partly by the victim's statement detailing the assault in graphic terms, is part of the growing outrage about rape on US college campuses.

Turner is due to be released on Sept 2 from the Santa Clara County jail, according to Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman Sergeant James Jensen. He was booked on June 2.

Inmates sentenced to county jail in California generally serve 50 per cent of their sentences, San Jose, California, criminal attorney Edward Kraus said.

In a Fox News interview on Wednesday, one of the two students who intervened in the assault, Carl-Fredrik Arndt, told host Greta Van Susteren that Turner did not seem drunk.

"I mean, he could run," Arndt said. "He could speak without slurring at all."

Officials have said Persky has received death threats since imposing the sentence, even as he faces a possible recall effort led by a Stanford law professor.

A Santa Clara County Court spokesman has said Persky is prohibited from commenting on the case because Turner is appealing his conviction.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a live video to his Facebook page of several people, including his wife, Chirlane McCray, and actress Cynthia Nixon, reading the 12-page letter the victim read in court addressing her attacker.

Actress Lena Dunham offered support for the victim on her Twitter page on Wednesday, posting a video about sexual assault.

Brie Larson, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a character who is kidnapped and raped in the movie "Room,"tweeted that Persky was "on the wrong side of history."

The case also struck a nerve internationally. Social media users in China have begun protesting Turner's sentence on the networking site Weibo, BuzzFeed reported on Thursday.

The Weibo posts frequently include images of women holding signs with messages of indignation.

"It is rape when she's unconscious," one sign reads. "It is still rape when he is a good swimmer."