Brock Turner’s classmates describe Oakwood party culture

  • Will Garbe
  • Staff Writer
8:02 p.m Thursday, June 9, 2016 Local

In text messages to friends over several months in 2014, Brock Turner described taking acid and expressed an interest in dabbling more deeply into an experimentation with illicit drug use.

But the 2014 Oakwood High School graduate and swimmer who sexually assaulted a woman at Stanford University didn’t tell Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky about what prosecutors said were his experiences with alcohol and drugs before college in a place where Turner’s own classmates say such a culture of underage use is prevalent.

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“I’ve gotta (expletive) try that,” Turner told a friend who told him he engaged in a practice called “candyflippin,” which he explained was when an individual takes the drugs LSD and MDMA together.

“I heard it’s awesome,” said the text from Turner, found by police after they confiscated his phone.

The text messages, included in a prosecution memo sent to the California judge in Turner’s court case, present a different side than the one Turner and others made to the court. Turner told the judge that he grew up in a small Ohio town and “never really experienced celebrating or partying that involved alcohol.”

Turner was convicted of penetration of an intoxicated person, intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, and penetration of an unconscious person. The assault, which involved digital penetration, occurred on Jan. 18, 2015, behind a dumpster outside a fraternity house.

This newspaper interviewed Oakwood High School class of 2014 graduates who knew Turner. They argued the city of about 9,000 isn’t the only place where high school students drink, but said it is ingrained in the town’s culture.

“Growing up in Oakwood, you kind of just were expected to go and party on the weekends,” said 2014 Oakwood graduate Chase Randolph. “(Drinking) wasn’t something out of the ordinary, it wasn’t weird.”

A sentencing brief written by Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci shows Turner’s experience with alcohol and drugs began before he started at Stanford University.

Turner was sentenced to six months in jail, but on Thursday, jail officials said his release date was scheduled for Sept. 2, three months after his sentence began. The Associated Press said jail inmates often are released after serving half of their sentence, if their behavior is good.

Attempts to contact the Turner family for this story were not successful. Nor did Oakwood City School District officials respond to a request for interview about their practices for teaching drug and alcohol abuse education.

“We had D.A.R.E. in the 5th grade,” said Turner’s former classmate Bradley Carlson, referencing a program known as Drug Abuse Resistance Education. “I don’t think that helps at all, to be honest with you.”

Carlson, also a 2014 graduate, said he drank in high school — “a lot,” he added. He said parents don’t always know drinking is going on, but some parents condone the practice.

“My parents would ground me if they knew all of this, which they’re about to find out,” Carlson said. “But, a lot of parents think they’re in the right for letting kids drink at their house … it’s better than the community golf course and drinking there.”

Kianerci’s brief reports Turner’s cell phone data shows “there were many references to smoking, buying, and sharing ‘weed’ from as early as April 1, 2014, when the defendant was in Ohio, throughout the defendant’s short time at Stanford.”

It continues, “The text messages also referenced doing acid or trying to find a ‘hook up’ to purchase acid both in high school and while at Stanford.”

Over Christmas break 2014, Turner received a text message from a Stanford University swim teammate stating, “I’ve got a hankerin for a good acid trip when we get back,” to which prosecutors note Turner replied, “I’m down for sure.” Such behavior apparently extended at least half a year earlier to July 2014.

At that time while he was still in Ohio, the prosecution sentencing brief states, Turner sent a text message to a former Oakwood swimming colleague saying, “Oh dude I did acid with (name withheld) last week.” The friend replied stating he engaged in a practice called “candyflippin,” which he explained was when an individual takes the drugs LSD and MDMA together.

“I’ve gotta (expletive) try that,” Turner replied, according to the prosecution sentencing brief. “I heard it’s awesome.”

But at least one letter of support filed with the court on Turner’s behalf by a student “a few years younger than him” suggests Turner did not pressure others to drink or use drugs.

“Once, when I was merely a freshman, a few of the seniors on the (swim) team told me that I should go smoke with them,” the student wrote. “Feeling very peer-pressured I did not know what to say and I froze, but thankfully Brock stood in for me and told them to leave me alone and told me that I did not need any of that.”

A letter of support written to the judge as part of Turner’s defense suggests he drank as early as April 2014 before leaving Oakwood.

“I can also attest to Brock’s character while he is under the influence of alcohol,” wrote a female Oakwood High School contemporary of Turner’s.

“I have been with Brock while he has been drinking a few times within the past two years,” she wrote. “While consuming alcohol in my presence, Brock was the same great guy he was while sober. He was always in control and continued to act rationally and be himself all night.”

And the prosecutor’s sentencing memo shows Turner’s sister, Caroline, asked her brother on June 3, 2014 how his plans for partying the night prior went.

“Did you rage last night?” she texted.

He replied, “Yeah kind of. It was hard to find a place to drink. But when we finally did (we) could only drink for like an hour and a half.”

His sister, now 22, replied, “Haha enjoy it while it lasts, the (funniest) thing to look back on (in) high school is having beer but no place to drink it. That will go away in college.”

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Carlson said he’s known Turner since about the second grade.

“My first reaction was there’s absolutely no way that happened. He was kind of quiet,” Carlson said. “But, I was pretty much doubtful of anything actually happening until I heard her letter, and now I don’t even have a stance on it.”

He added, “The only reason I don’t have a stance on it is because she (Turner’s victim) doesn’t remember the details.”

A probation officer report shows Turner’s blood-alcohol content that night was 0.13 percent, well above California’s and Ohio’s 0.08 percent legal intoxication limit.

The victim — whose identity has been protected by the court — received a blood draw approximately six hours after her assault that found her blood-alcohol concentration at that time was 0.12 percent. Prosecutors stated a back extrapolation of her BAC placed her intoxication level at the time of the assault at approximately 0.22 percent — “almost three times the legal limit.”

Even still, that did not account for a Salene IV she received, which Santa Clara County criminalist Alice King said means her BAC “was likely much higher, but it is impossible to know how high.”

The question of consent during sexual encounters was not a topic of curriculum at Oakwood High School when Turner and classmate Megan Reynolds attended the school, Reynolds said.

“In Oakwood, we are told that we are privileged to have such a great school system and be a part of an enclosed community, but we are rarely exposed to its flaws,” Reynolds wrote in a statement to this newspaper. “In high school, we had countless speakers talk to us about the dangers of drinking and driving, sexting and drug addiction, but drinking and consent was never discussed. It was never thought that any of our students were capable of such.”

Reynolds continued, “But when you couple this lack of accountability with our constant praise and achievement, the divide between those who think Turner is less deserving of punishment and those who think otherwise shouldn’t come as a shock.”

Staff Writers Grant Pepper, Steve Bennish and Josh Sweigart contributed to this report.

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