Mr. Turner, now a convicted felon, has been described as a star swimmer and prized athlete by the media. This description has caused reactions of outrage and shock to echo on social media. When the sentence is framed in the context of his accomplishments, there is implication that the sentence was passed down BECAUSE of his accomplishments. What the judge ACTUALLY said is lost in all of the news reports. One comment taken out of context has set the tone for this discussion.
There are many punitive layers of the sentencing that the headlines do not capture. There are various purposes of punishment, not just retribution: deterrence (specific and general), rehabilitation, incapacitation, and denunciation. Judges juggle these various factors and assign varied weights to each depending on the circumstances present in the case and offender before them. Rehabilitation of the offender can be as important a factor, if not more, than the period of incarceration. Mr. Turner received six months jail with formal, felony probation. Also, he is now a convicted felon and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He will be responsible to pay the victim restitution for any damages or losses she suffered. He will be vigorously supervised by a probation officer. If he violates his probation, he can still be sentenced to up to 14 years in state prison.
Trial judges like Judge Persky are often best situated to determine the fair sentence in a given case. They sit and hear the evidence during the course of the trial, watch the accused and their behavior, and receive information from all sides including the probation department before rendering their sentence.
ADM Legal Defense once represented a client who was charged with sexual abuse of a minor, the victim was his sister. He was sentenced to 30 days, three years probation, sex offender treatment and ten-year registry. He is a young guy. During sentencing the judge remarked about the effect a prison sentence would have on the client. Send him to prison and this kid will never find a job. Prison does not guarantee that someone will learn from their mistake but it does guarantee that someone will learn to be a different kind of criminal.