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Judge who said rape victim should have 'put up a fight' is rebuked

The state agency that monitors judicial misconduct has publicly admonished an Orange County judge, saying his remarks in a sexual assault case breached judicial ethics and created an impression of bias against the victim.

At a June 2008 sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson denied a prosecutor’s call to impose a 16-year prison term on Metin Gurel, who had been convicted of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery, stalking and making threats against his former live-in girlfriend.

On the day he raped her, prosecutors said, Gurel had threatened to mutilate her face and vagina with a heated screwdriver.

Johnson decided to impose a six-year sentence.

“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something,” the judge said, according to documents released Thursday. “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 in inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case.

"That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight.”

The judge, who has been on the Orange County Superior Court since 2000, also declared the rape “technical,” and not “a real, live criminal case.”

The San Francisco-based Commission on Judicial Performance said that Johnson’s remarks flew in the face of California law, which does not require proof that a rape victim tried to resist an attack.

“In the commission’s view, the judge’s remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight,’ ” the agency said in a news release Thursday.

“Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary. In his response to the commission and at his appearance, Judge Johnson conceded his comments were inappropriate and apologized.”

Johnson remains on the bench.

“Neither Judge Johnson nor I will be making comment,” said Johnson’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, when reached by phone Thursday.

The commission, which comprises judges, lawyers and members of the public, voted 10-0 that Johnson deserved a public admonishment.

The commission said it did not learn of the judge’s remarks until May 2012.

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-- Christopher Goffard

 
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