SoCal Judge Admonished for Rape Comments
SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - The California Commission on Judicial Performance admonished an Orange County Superior Court judge for saying in a sentencing hearing that a rape victim "didn't put up a fight," and that "if someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down."
The commission voted 10-0 Thursday to publicly admonish Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson for comments that were inappropriate and a breach of judicial ethics.
Johnson has been a judge on the Orange County Superior Court since 2000.
"Judge Johnson is publicly admonished for remarks he made while sentencing a defendant convicted of rape and other sexual assault offenses. The comments created the impression that the judge was not impartial in cases involving rape without serious bodily injury showing resistance by the victim," the commission said in its Decision and Order Imposing Public Admonishment.
Johnson made the comments on June 20, 2008, while sentencing a man a jury had convicted of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery with corporal injury, stalking, and three counts of criminal threats, with use of a deadly weapon as to one count of criminal threats. The defendant in the unpublished opinion, People v. Metin Riza Gurel had dated, and lived with, his victim, the commission said in its seven-page order.
She kicked him out after he threatened her with a knife and "threatened to slash her throat with a broken compact disk," the commission wrote. She reported this to police, and though they continued to date "on and off" until September 2007 and had consensual sex in October that year, the woman came to fear him because of his repeated threats, the commission wrote.
He saw her on a date with another man on Nov. 20, 2007, and "threatened the victim while making a slicing motion across his throat," the commission found. Someone slashed her tires, and when she got home "the defendant called, threatening to blow up her car and cause her to lose her job if she failed to arrive at his apartment within 20 minutes."
The commission's Decision and Order continues: "She went to his apartment where the defendant bruised her breast with a metal baton, shattered her cell phone, heated a screwdriver and threatened to use it to maim her face and vagina, threatened to burn her face and hair with a lit cigarette lighter, and threatened to shoot and kill her. He ordered her to perform fellatio, raped her, and ejaculated in her mouth. The victim did not leave after the defendant fell asleep because he was a light sleeper.
"The next morning, the defendant demanded that the victim make him breakfast and told her she would live at his apartment. She convinced the defendant to allow her to return to her apartment on her own to collect her clothing. She drove to the police stations, where she reported the defendant's threats from the previous evening. In an interview about 17 days later, she reported the rape."
Judge Johnson announced that he would issue multiple six-year sentences, all of them to run concurrently, and the prosecutor asked why.
The commission then cites the transcript.
"THE COURT: All right. Let me tell you why I'm going to sentence Mr. Gurel to six years only in spite of the People's request for -
"MS. SNYDER: Sixteen.
"THE COURT: -16. And that is, I spent my last year and a half in the D.A.'s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault. I've seen sexual assault. I've seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. I'm not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it's an insult. I think it trivializes a rape."
After the prosecutor asked to speak, and did speak, Johnson replied: "I just found the threats to be technical threats. I find this whole case to be a technical case. The rape is technical. The forced oral copulation is technical. It's more of a crim law test than a real live criminal case. I don't know what more to say."
Johnson then sentenced the man to six years.