Texas Rep. Ted Poe read large portions of the Stanford victim's famous letter on the House floor on Capitol Hill Thursday morning. He demanded that an appeals court overturn Brock Turner's sentence.
Turner, 20, was convicted on three counts of sexual assault last week, and Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to just six months in county jail and probation, saying that a longer sentence in prison would "severely impact" the college swimmer's life.
Turner has appealed his case.
A letter read aloud by the victim to her assailant during the trial has been read by millions of people across the world since BuzzFeed News published it on Friday.
On Monday, CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield read the full letter on air, drawing even wider attention.
In remarks provided to BuzzFeed News, the Republican congressman read long excerpts from the letter aloud in the House, demanded the Court of Appeals overturn Turner's lenient sentence, and asked for the people of California to oust Judge Persky.
"Mr. Speaker, I was a criminal court judge and prosecutor for 30 years, this judge got it wrong," Poe's prepared remarks read.
"The judge should be removed from the bench," Poe told BuzzFeed News following his speech Thursday. "The people of California have the ability to do so, and they should."
Poe also said he is "glad this arrogant defendant has appealed his case," adding that this appeal will give the court an opportunity to give the former Stanford swimmer a harsher sentence.
"The appeals court must make this right and overturn this pathetic sentence," Rep. Poe said.
Poe, a former judge himself, has worked with victims of sexual assault in the past. He is currently the chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus and helped Texas pass registration of sex offenders.
"As a country, we must change our mentality and make sure that our young people recognize sexual assault and rape for the heinous crimes that they are," Poe said near the end of his speech.
"As a grandfather, I want to know that my granddaughters are growing up in a society that has zero tolerance for this crime," he continued. "No means no."
Watch the full speech below:
Following his speech, Poe told BuzzFeed News that the reception in the House was enthusiastic and supportive.
"Members on both sides of the aisle came and spoke to me with comments of support," Poe said, adding that the speaker that followed him took a moment to express his support for Poe's speech before beginning his own.
Poe said that his personal experience talking to victims of sexual assault – as well as his three daughters and many granddaughters – caused him to care enormously about this issue and understand how badly our current judicial system often deals with it.
He told BuzzFeed News of a case he tried in which a female University of Houston student who was kidnapped and raped at a gas station. Following the case the victim's husband left her, she became addicted to drugs, and years later her mother told Poe that she committed suicide and left a note that said she was "tired of running from the criminal in my nightmares."
"The many women I've talked to who are victims of sexual assault and rape have let me know the way the world really is," Poe said, "and it's not the way the world should be."
He added that he would like to talk to the victim himself to let her know that the House is on her side.
"She said in her amazing statement that she feels like she's abandoned and alone," Poe said. "I want to let her know she has my support and a whole community behind her."
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed online petitions asking for Judge Persky to be removed from the bench, but the chances of this actually happening are slim and, on the whole, unprecedented, experts told BuzzFeed News.
"I don't believe there's ever been a recall on a Superior Court judge in the state," David Gould, a Long Beach political consultant who works on judicial races and is not involved with Persky's campaign, told BuzzFeed News. "You're entering very uncharted territory."
Persky won the primary election for his post after running unopposed Wednesday.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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