A judge shares Akin's belief that women's bodies "shut down" rape

A Superior Court justice is admonished for his despicable remarks to a rape victim — four years later

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
December 14, 2012 9:42PM (UTC)
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Oh, hello again, rape culture. Why, it's been like, HOURS since the last time we saw you. How've you been? Still putting up the good fight, so to speak, I see.

Hey, speaking of putting up a fight, how about that Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson? What a card! Back in 2008, the Orange County judge was handing down a sentence on Metin Gurel, who'd been convicted of "rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery, stalking and making threats against his former live-in girlfriend." Prosecutors, who'd asked for a 16-year term for the man, noted that on the day of the assault, he'd also threatened to mutilate the victim's genitals with a heated screwdriver. And what did Derek G. Johnson think of what Gurel had done? Not a whole heck of a lot.


In a display of biological comprehension that would go unchallenged until Todd Akin, court documents released Thursday reveal that Johnson declared, "I'm not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something. 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." As he sentenced Gurel to a mere six years, he called the assault "technical" and not "a real, live criminal case," and said, "To treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it's an insult. I think it trivializes a rape."

That's right, a judge who said, in a court of law, that if someone doesn't want intercourse her body will magically shut down, thought that what would be an insult, what would trivialize rape, would be to impose a tougher sentence on a rapist. Good one, Judge Johnson.

A mere four years later, a Commission on Judicial Performance admonished the judge for his remarks. On Thursday, it issued a statement: "The judge's remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views. Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary." The Commission added that Johnson, who remains on the bench, had apologized for his words, though his attorney told reporters Thursday he would be making no public comment. 


The commission says it didn't learn of Johnson's statements until last spring, but the OC Weekly published a story on Johnson at the time of the trial, including his remarks that the victim's vagina was not "shredded" enough to indicate true assault. In the piece, writer R. Scott Moxley also noted Johnson's less than stellar track record with female victims. In a case of man who'd been accused of "repeatedly punching, kicking, strangling and pointing a loaded handgun at a girlfriend, Johnson has ridiculed the victim in open court, calling her 'a dullard.'" And when convicted murderer Terrance Russell tried to strangle a woman in 2007, Johnson "reduced the two felony charges to misdemeanors and gave Russell just eight months in the local jail."

But Johnson's not without compassion. Two years ago, when an Orange County jail inmate requested special meals to celebrate the fanciful "Seinfeld" holiday of Festivus, Johnson cheerfully granted his wish. There you have it. If you're a convicted drug dealer and you want double portions of kosher meals, Johnson's got your back. If your vagina wasn't sufficiently shredded during your rape, not so much. Festivus is real, but sexual assault is still up in the air. Thanks for the priorities, Johnson.  You're rape culture's Man of the Week.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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