Massachusetts judge under fire for
sentence in sex assault case
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[August 24, 2016]
(Reuters) - Women's groups and
social media users on Tuesday criticized as too lenient the two years'
probation given to a Massachusetts student athlete who sexually
assaulted two women as they slept, likening it to a recent California
case that also raised a firestorm.
David Becker, 18, a former three-sport athlete from East Longmeadow High
School in western Massachusetts, escaped jail time even though
prosecutors recommended a two-year sentence.
Becker admitted in court last week to sexually assaulting two
18-year-old women as they slept after a party, and an initial charge of
rape was amended to indecent assault and battery, according to court
records. Becker also agreed to undergo treatment and evaluation as a sex
offender and submit to drug and alcohol screenings for two years.
The judge, Thomas Estes, in District Court in Palmer, Massachusetts,
declined to comment.
Becker's defense attorney, Thomas Rooke, was unavailable on Tuesday to
comment, a representative at his office said.
"We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old, and we
shouldn't be branded for life with a felony offense and branded a sex
offender," Rooke said in court, as reported by The Republican newspaper.
"Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid's
The case resembled that of Brock Turner, a former Stanford University
swimmer who received a six-month sentence after being convicted in March
of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman following a party on campus.
Prosecutors had asked for six years in prison.
The judge in the California case, Aaron Persky, faced widespread
criticism, and more than 1.3 million people signed an online petition to
remove him from the bench.
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Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer with the women's rights group
UltraViolet, called the Becker sentence "outrageous" and "an example
of rape culture at work."
"Judge Estes was more concerned with the rapist's long-term
well-being than with justice for the survivors," Roland said. "Both
Brock Turner and David Becker were privileged white athletes who
could afford strong legal representation. In both cases, the judge
could readily identify with the rapist and prioritize their
well-being. In both cases the judges disregarded sentencing
recommendations from prosecutors."
The case gained widespread attention on social media as commentators
expressed outrage under hashtags such as #DavidtheRapist and
"Another judge needs to be disbarred, another rapist w/white
privilege," wrote Twitter user N.K. Jemisin, under the handle
@nkjemisin, with nearly 22,000 followers.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Angela Moon; Editing by Cynthia
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