Part 4—Lassettre disappeared: How much of Brock Turner's story is actually true?
We can't really answer that question. Turner, who was quite drunk at the time, says he was given consent by Jane Doe, who was even drunker.
(The victim in this case has been variously referred to as Jane Doe and as Emily Doe. We'll use "Jane Doe" today.)
A jury convicted Turner of assault; presumably, they didn't accept his story. It's also true, on a legal basis, that a person who is black-out drunk pretty much can't give consent, not even to a college freshman who's almost equally drunk.
Turner's actions that night produced three criminal convictions. Having said that, we'll also say this:
When we read the endless news reports about events of this type, our thoughts often turn to the august provosts and presidents who preside over the drunken culture in which such assaults take place. We're struck by their role in this crackpot culture—this illegal crackpot culture, which has proven destructive and dangerous, in so many ways, to so many young people.
Frequently, we also think about the journalists who report and opine about these frequent, appalling events. For one example out of many, let's return to Leonard Pitts, who wrote a journalistically instructive column about the Stanford assault.
As we noted yesterday, Pitts is accomplished, intelligent, decent. That said, we think he showed bad judgment in the degree of fury he chose to direct at the local judge who had to deal with the latest outcome of the Stanford provost's illegal, crackpot culture.
We thought Pitts was over his skis in the degree of fury he aimed at that local judge. Journalistically, we think his judgment was especially poor when we consider the role of a second local official—a person Pitts disappeared from his account of the judge's decision.
We refer to Monica Lassettre, the local probation officer who provided sentencing recommendations to Aaron Persky, the widely reviled local judge.
Lassettre has sometimes been mentioned in news reports about this case. The New York Times did so just once, midway through this lengthy report by Thomas Fuller.
What is the role of the "probation officer" in a case like this? very few journalists have tried to explain this very basic point.
Fuller's text represents the only time that a New York Times reader learned that a female probation officer, whatever that is, recommended a slightly more lenient sentence than the one the widely-reviled local judge delivered. According to Nexis, this is the only time Lassettre's name has appeared in the glorious Times:
FULLER (6/13/16): The degree to which the inebriation of both Mr. Turner and the woman should have been a factor in sentencing was a central point of contention.The prosecutor wanted a six-year sentence. The probation officer recommended four to six months in the county jail.
Monica Lassettre, the probation officer who wrote sentencing recommendations, advised the judge to be lenient partly on the grounds that Mr. Turner was drunk. ''This case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant's level of intoxication.''
She recommended four to six months in a county jail, even though Mr. Turner faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison. She also based her recommendation on what she said was his ''sincere remorse and empathy for the victim,'' and his lack of a prior criminal record.
Alaleh Kianerci, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, saw the woman's intoxication as a reason for a harsher sentence, and she urged the judge to impose six years. The fact that the victim was so intoxicated was an ''aggravating factor warranting a prison sentence,'' Ms. Kianerci wrote.
Persky's sentence landed on the high end of Lassettre's recommendation. For whatever reason, her name has appeared in the New York Times on just that one occasion. The very fact of her recommendation has been widely disappeared.
Who is Monica Lassettre and why is she doing these things? On a more elementary level, what's the role of the local "probation officer" in matters of this type?
Very few papers, the Times included, have bothered with that second question. Most papers have focused on disappearing Lassettre, thereby depriving readers of a basic fact:
There's someone else who could be receiving their furious threats! How fair is it when our nation's mob of know-it-alls threaten the judge alone?
In our view, Pitts authored a particularly inflammatory treatment of the local judge. We think he showed extremely poor judgment when he engaged in this conduct without mentioning this fact:
A second official who reviewed the case recommended a slightly more lenient sentence!
Why did Lassettre make that recommendation? To what extent might her recommendation, and Persky's decision, have been in line with previous sentences in similar cases, to the extent that such cases may be said to exist?
We don't know the answer to such questions, in part for an obvious reason. We've read the New York Times' accounts of this case. We've also read the inflammatory column by Pitts.
In accord with modern outrage culture, Pitts wanted his outraged readers to hang the disgraceful (male) judge. He skipped right past the (female) probation officer, whose recommendation the judge had adopted.
Why complicate the tale?
Across the press corps, across the nation, the usual gang of loudmouths and hacks began explaining Persky's motives in highly unflattering ways. According to Pitts, the judge had "compassion for the rapist" but lacked same "for the victim."
To our ear, that was a dangerous thing to say. Later, the godlike columnist said we "ought to do whatever you can to fix a culture that makes possible a Brock Turner—and an Aaron Persky."
To our ear, those were dangerous things to say. That said, Pitts helped his readers bathe in the glow of their glorious rage by disappearing the second official who saw the case the same way Persky did, for reasons Pitts simply skipped past.
Why did the female probation officer reach the same judgment as the male judge who was just a hack from Stanford who feels compassion for rapists? (Under terms of California law, Turner wasn't charged with rape.)
As a consumer of American "news," you don't have to ask! Our "journalists" will make the matter much, much simpler for you. All across our crackpot land, the very fact of her recommendation will be usefully disappeared.
This is the way the successors to our upper-end "press corps" now typically play the game. In accord with the values of modern culture, they help us bathe ourselves in our glorious outrage and in our glorious dogma.
As a general matter, this now-familiar standard practice hasn't worked especially well. Tomorrow, we'll touch upon a widely-cited, completely irrelevant fact.
Tomorrow: Days of dogma! Letters to the judge