An Orange County judge has been publicly admonished by a disciplinary panel for comments he made about rape and a rape victim in 2008.
In sentencing Metin Riza Gurel to six years for rape instead of the 16 years requested by prosecutors, Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson said the victim in the case did not display the same kind of injuries he had seen in other women while working in the Orange County district attorney's sexual assault unit.
"I'm not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down," Johnson told the prosecutor questioning the six-year term. "The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that 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 we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it's an insult. I think it trivializes a rape."
The Commission on Judicial Performance noted that since 1980 California law has not required proof that a rape victim resisted or was prevented from resisting because of threats.
"The judge's remarks reflect outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not 'put up a fight,'" the commission wrote in a unanimous order released on Thursday. "Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary."
Johnson's attorney, Paul Meyer of Costa Mesa, said neither he nor his client would comment on the admonishment. Appearing before the commission earlier this year Johnson apologized for his "inappropriate" remarks, which he said were made in frustration after the prosecutor sought what he thought was an improper sentence, commissioners wrote. Johnson joined the bench in 2000.
The commission said it wasn't made aware of Johnson's 2008 remarks until May of this year.
A jury had convicted Gurel of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery and other counts in connection with an abusive relationship with his on-and-off-again girlfriend. On the night of Nov. 10, 2007, Gurel smacked her in the chest with a metal baton, broke her cellphone, and threatened to kill her, to set her ablaze and to stab her face and vagina with a heated screwdriver. Then he raped her.
At Gurel's 2008 sentencing, Johnson rejected the prosecution's request for consecutive sentences that would have lengthened the assailant's time in prison. Johnson said he found Gurel's threats "technical" in nature.
"I found this whole case to be a technical case," he said. "The rape is technical. The forced oral copulation is technical. It's more of a crim law case than a real live criminal case. I don't know what more to say."
Johnson's comments are reminiscent of those made by Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, who in an August television interview insisted that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin lost in the November general election.