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California judicial panel admonishes O.C. judge for rape comments

Judge Derek G. Johnson had said the victim 'didn't put up a fight' and that the sexual attack was 'technical.' The panel called his comments outdated and insensitive.

December 14, 2012|By Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times

A longtime Orange County judge who said that a rape victim "didn't put up a fight" and that her sexual assault was only "technical" has been publicly admonished by a state agency that said his remarks seemed outdated, insensitive and possibly biased.

The Commission on Judicial Performance said Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson's comments breached judicial ethics.

At a sentencing in 2008, 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 the woman with a heated screwdriver.

Johnson imposed 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 is 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 said.

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."

"To treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape," the judge said. "I think it's an insult. I think it trivializes a rape."

The San Francisco-based Commission on Judicial Performance said 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"In the commission's view, the judge's remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not 'put up a fight,' " the agency said in a news release Thursday.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 is composed of judges, lawyers and members of the public, voted 10 to 0 that Johnson deserved a public admonishment.

The commission said it did not learn of the judge's remarks until May 2012. The OC Weekly published a story on the judge's remarks in 2008.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com

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