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Outrage over lenient sentence in Stanford rape case
04:31 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Leslie Rasmussen and her band criticized on social media, lose chances to play

She sent a letter to court in defense of Turner; now apologizes, says her letter was a mistake

CNN  — 

A young Ohio woman and the punk-rock band she plays in with her sisters have been thrust into the spotlight after a letter she wrote in defense of her friend, convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner, went viral.

“Two months ago, I was asked to write a character statement for use in the sentencing phase of Brock Turner’s trial,” Leslie Rasmussen explained on her Facebook page. “Per the request of the court, I was asked to write this statement in an effort to shed light on Brock’s character as I knew it to be during my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood when I interacted with him as a classmate and friend.”

Thirty-nine such character letters were submitted to the court, including statements from a retired federal prosecutor, Turner’s high school guidance counselor and his former swim coach. But it was Rasmussen’s letter that piqued public interest and led to the condemnation of her band, Good English.

A character letter

In her letter to the court, Rasmussen calls Turner “respectful and caring, talented, and smart enough to know better.”

“It’s pretty frustrating to see the light that people are putting him in now. It used to be ‘swim star’ and now it’s like he is the face of rape on campuses,” she wrote.

But it was her perceived excuse for his actions that spurred public indignation.

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him,” her letter read. “I think it is disgusting and I am so sick of hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely twenty-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand.”

On Wednesday, Rasmussen issued a public apology on her Facebook page.

“Although I was asked to share how I knew him, how long I have known him, his character and personality, time spent with him, activities together, and any other opinion I had on the matter, I was not there that night. I had no right to make any assumptions about the situation,” she wrote. “Most importantly, I did not acknowledge strongly enough the severity of Brock’s crime and the suffering and pain that his victim endured, and for that lack of acknowledgment, I am deeply sorry. I fully understand the outrage over Brock’s sentencing and my statement. I can only say that I am committed to learning from this mistake. I am 20 years old, and it has never been more clear to me that I still have much to learn.”

Opinion: Show rape victim’s letter to your sons

Viral mob goes after the band

The public outrage over Rasmussen’s character letter resulted in a barrage of vile social media messages, some threatening, and multiple canceled Good English appearances in New York and Ohio, including the Northside Festival and the Dayton Music Art & Film Festival.

Rasmussen, 20, is the band’s drummer. The band released its second album in May and was set to tour this summer.

“We found out through people contacting us on social media,” Industry City Distillery spokesman David Kyrejko said. Good English was scheduled to play at their venue on June 11.

A statement on the venue’s Facebook page read, “Good English was removed from the roster. The support of rape culture is not tolerated.”

Kyrejko said the decision to drop the band after learning of Rasmussen’s letter was “instantaneous.”

“We dropped them right away,” he said. “We will not tolerate the support of rape culture. We didn’t even wait for confirmation from the booking company, we already made up our minds to cancel them and we made the decision to make it public that we would not have them.”

The band’s publicity label, Behind The Curtains Media, also decided to cut ties.

“Behind The Curtains Media, its affiliates and artists do not support or endorse the former client, Good English or the statements made by individual members and therefore we have severed ties in all capacities,” company spokesman Michael Abiuso said.

Rasmussen said she has never condoned the rape.

“I know that Brock Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault. I realize that this crime caused enormous pain for the victim. I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender,” she posted on Facebook.

Good English’s website and social media accounts have been shut down.

An unintended victim

An Ohio woman who shares her name with Rasmussen became an unintended victim of the viral blowback.

“In the last 10 hours I’ve received harassing emails at my work account and multiple harassing tweets,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Some include a warning to not birth female children. Some asking if I ‘did’ Brock Turner. Others asking me if I enjoy rape. All of these messages have one thing in common – they’re sent from accounts with no pictures, names, or locations.” She adds, “It’s very easy to hide behind the cloak of anonymity and say whatever we want to people - to judge or harass. It isn’t right.”