A California judge who said a rape victim trivialized the crime because she “didn’t put up a fight” and that her rape is only “technical” has been publicly admonished by the state agency that investigates judicial misconduct.
The Commission on Judicial Performance voted 10 to zero to impose public admonishment on Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson, calling his remarks “outdated, biased and insensitive views.”
“The comments created an impression that the judge was not impartial in cases involving rape without serious bodily injury showing resistance by victims,” chairman Lawrence J. Simi wrote.
“The comments suggested that the judge was not impartial toward sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight,’ by suggesting that they were not victims of “real” crime,” the commission’s document read. “Further, the judge improperly relied on his own ‘expert opinion’ concerning serious bodily injury showing resistance based on his experiences in the district attorney’s office, rather than evidence before him.”
The commission members agreed that Johnson’s remarks were inconsistent with California law.
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Johnson, who has been at the superior court since 2000, has since admitted he was inappropriate and apologized. In going before the agency on Dec. 5, Johnson explained that his inappropriateness stems from frustration with the prosecutor in the case who was requesting a sentence not authorized by law.
The facts of the case, as presented by the agency, is that on June 20, 2008, Johnson was the presiding judge in the case of Metin Gurel. Gurel was convicted of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery with corporal injury, stalking, and other criminal offences. He and the victim began dating in 2004 and moved in together two years later. During that time the defendant threatened to slash her throat and disfigure her face and vagina. Eventually, the defendant ordered the victim to perform oral sex and raped her – a crime she reported 17 days later.
At the sentencing, Johnson rejected the prosecutor’s demand for a 16-year prison term. Instead, he gave a six-year sentence and explained:
“I spent the 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 the victim in the 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 rape.”
The commission was only made aware of these remarks in May 2012.