Even if you pay just the slightest attention to current events, odds are you’ve heard about Brock Turner. He raped an unconscious woman in an alley in January of 2015. The outcome of his trial convicted him of sexual assault, which has a maximum sentence of fourteen years. He, however, was only sentenced to 6 months and ended up only serving half of that time for “good behavior.” The major factors that influenced Judge Aaron Persky’s ruling were Turner's character, with his lack of prior offenses and that a prison sentence "would have a severe impact on him" and his future as a swimmer for Stanford University. This ruling led to national outrage about the perpetuation of rape culture by the shortcomings of the judicial system and white privilege. Let's look at some people who served more time behind bars than Turner did.
1. Martha Stewart
Yes, even Martha Stewart, the woman who runs a multi-million dollar business empire and has a net worth of $638 million, served longer than Brock Turner. She was sentenced and served 5 months in prison for insider trading and conspiracy with the company ImClone to boost their stocks.
2. Wesley Snipes
This famous actor, who starred in hits like New Jack City, Blade and Expendables 3, was sentenced and served three years for tax evasion. Keep in mind that it was three misdemeanor accounts of failing to file federal income tax returns that cost him three years of his life.
3. Piper Kerman
Meet the real life Piper Chapman! Kerman is the mind behind the hit show Orange is the New Black, which is loosely based upon her own experiences in prison. She was sentenced fifteen months for money laundering, which can be considered a misdemeanor depending on the state you’re charged in, and served thirteen.
4. Fat Joe
He didn't always live all the way up in the hills, despite what the song says. He was sentenced and served 4 months in prison for tax evasion. He originally faced a potential longer sentence, but the judges deemed that unnecessary after he returned about $750,000 in taxes and accounted for his generous donations to charity.
5. Ja Rule
You’re probably starting to sense a trend here with celebrities and tax evasion charges. Ja Rule is not an exception. He was sentenced and served two years for tax evasion and gun possession.
6. Weldon Angelos
There is a remarkable difference between the minimum sentencing laws for drug charges versus sexual assault. Angelos was sentenced 55 years for possession of a firearm while selling marijuana. A sentence that long would’ve cost taxpayers upwards of $1.5 million just to hold him for distribution of weed. He was actually released this past May after serving twelve years thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates working on his behalf.
7. Bernard Noble
The war on drugs, particularly marijuana, has wasted billions and billions of dollars to do nothing permanent against the drug epidemic and create absurd sentences for minor crimes. Noble was sentenced thirteen years for possession of 2.8 grams of weed and committing a similar offense in the past. Thirteen years. He is currently serving his fifth year and must wait until his tenth year to even file for clemency. Many activists have taken up his case, and there is a petition circulating calling for the governor of Louisiana to set him free.
8. Teresa Giudice
This week, on the Real Housewives of New Jersey, we go to prison. This reality TV star was sentenced and served fifteen months for committing bankruptcy fraud with her husband.
9. Tim Allen
Before he was Tim “The Tool-man” Taylor on Home Improvement, Tim Allen did some serious time. That's right: Santa Claus went to prison. He was arrested and almost faced a life sentence for possession of 650 grams of cocaine. He decided to provide the state with information on every single member of the drug ring to reduce his sentence to five years. It was in prison that he turned his life around and devoted himself to his own special brand of comedy to survive the experience.
10. Patricia Spottedcrow
This Oklahoma mother of four was sentenced to ten years for selling $31 worth of weed to an undercover informant. Her mother was also arrested with her, but she was given a thirty year suspended sentence, meaning she didn’t actually have to go to prison. Patricia ended up serving two years, and her case brought great attention and scrutiny to the state’s harsh sentences for first time offenders.
11. Jeff Mizanskey
Imagine facing a life sentence without the possibility of parole for three non-violent marijuana related offenses. That was Mizanskey’s reality when he was arrested back in the 90’s. He served twenty-one years of that sentence and was only released early thanks to the repeal of the law that robbed him of a third of his life.
12. John Ray Wilson
Mr. Wilson was sentenced to five years in prison for the growing and possession of marijuana. However, he had done so in order to help him deal with the pain of his multiple sclerosis, but he wasn’t allowed to tell this to the jury. He ended up serving five months of this sentence before advocates could get him released. From his time spent in jail, he faced severe, adverse effects on his health and lost around forty pounds.
13. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert suffered from addiction problems, which are what led to his arrest. He was sentenced to three years for having a pistol and cocaine in his car when he was pulled over by a cop. However, he wasn’t officially arrested until his neighbors called the cops a few days later. He served one year and three months of that sentence, and, given the tremendous effort he put into getting his life back on track since then, he was pardoned of these charges by Governor Jerry Brown on Christmas Eve last year. Downey has now been sober since 2003, and like many others on this list, it’s clear that his time in prison has changed him for the better.
As a female college student, it's terrifying to see what crimes could get someone a longer sentence than rape. No matter what gender you identify as or your sexual orientation, you should always feel safe at school along with all the parties and events outside of it. No one should live in constant fear and worry. The victims of these heinous crimes are never at fault, regardless of what they wore, how much they drank or their past relationships. America has come a long way in the last few decades in improving the treatment of victims and prosecution of rapists, but cases like this show how much work still needs to be done.
Lead Image Credit: Tilted Productions, Lionsgate Television