NOTE: May 19, 2017 – Snopes.com has picked up on this case and even credited Crescent City Times with filing this report.
May 17, 2017 – The Del Norte District Attorney’s Office announced that Nolan Bruder (20) of Crescent City was sentenced this afternoon by the Honorable William H. Follett to the low term of three years, with all but 240 days (at half time in county jail) suspended in favor of a grant of probation for Rape of an Intoxicated Person. The victim in this case was Bruder’s sixteen year old sister who he gave high-potency marijuana “dabs” to smoke after she repeatedly resisted his sexual advances until she reached the point of no longer recognizing him as her brother. Bruder pleaded guilty earlier this month.
In the wake of the case involving Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, the Legislature changed the law to make such crimes ineligible for probation. Bruder benefited from the fact that his crimes pre-dated the change in the law and allowed Judge Follett to grant him probation. “In a lot of ways, this case is more egregious than Brock Turner. This defendant took advantage of a position of trust as this victim’s big brother. He knew she didn’t want to have sex with him. She told him that repeatedly. So he got her stoned on dabs he gave her until she didn’t even recognize him in order get what he wanted,” said Del Norte District Attorney Dale P. Trigg.
At the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Annamarie Padilla argued that Judge Follett should follow the Probation Department’s recommendation to send Bruder to state prison for six years. She quoted from the legislative history section of the amendment to the current law requiring that probation now be denied on such cases: “Under this interpretation of the law, a perpetrator at a college party who chooses to forcibly rape a conscious victim will go to prison. However, a different perpetrator at the same party who chooses to watch and wait for a victim to pass out from intoxication before sexually assaulting her may get probation. Whether penetration is accomplished through physical aggression [force] or predatory behavior is a distinction without a difference. Both perpetrators seek prey that are vulnerable; disadvantaged by his/her capacity to resist.”
Judge Follett noted that the victim in this case took her own clothes off and was not unconscious. The legislative changes and the policies behind them, however, apply equally to situations where a victim cannot consent due to intoxication or due to being unconscious. Judge Follett also questioned whether there was sufficient evidence upon which a jury could convict Bruder, even though Bruder had given a video-taped confession following the disclosure of the crime by his sister.
Judge Follett believed that the “stigma” of this conviction along with mandatory sex offender registration requirements would sufficiently deter this Defendant and others in the community. “I could not disagree more,” said Trigg. “The message that this sends to our community is that sexual predators who get their juvenile siblings stoned enough can have sex with them without any meaningful consequence. That is not the message I want to send to our community,” said Trigg.
Del Norte Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Richard Griffin investigated the case.