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Sexual harassment and assault

Judge who gave Stanford rapist Brock Turner lenient sentence in sexual assault case is ousted from job by voters

Aaron Persky is the first California jurist recalled from the office in 86 years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 2:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 7:41am

The controversial judge who sparked outrage after offering a lenient sentence to Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault, was recalled from office Wednesday – becoming the first California jurist recalled from the bench in 86 years.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, 56, became the target of a recall after sentencing Turner, who could have faced 14 years in prison, to only six months behind bars.

While the now-famous 2016 sentencing hearing happened before the #MeToo movement took hold over the country, ballots cast Tuesday were made in the backdrop of the movement, which has emboldened sexual assault survivors and forced criminal investigations and oustings of powerful men, most notably with Harvey Weinstein.

Persky’s supporters contend Turner’s sentence was lawful – and the recommended sentence from probation officials. But those calling for the recall say this is just one of many sentences handed down from Persky that were far too light.

Two women are running on the ballot to succeed Persky: civil lawyer Angela Storey and prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson.

The results of the vote came nearly two years after Persky’s decision.

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During the sentencing hearing, Persky cited Turner’s age, the fact that both he and the victim were drunk and that prison time could have a “severe” impact on Turner’s life as the reasoning behind the lenient six-month sentence.

Turner ended up only serving three months due to good behaviour.

He was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.

The victim, known as “Emily Doe”, then 23, read an emotional 7,000-word statement during the sentencing detailing the impact to her life and the horror of the 2015 attack, including taking a shower at the hospital after two bicyclists spotted her being assaulted by Turner and chased him down.

“I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it,” she said.

“I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”

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Her statement, published in full by BuzzFeed, quickly went viral.

It drew more than 10 million views within four days and resonated with thousands of sexual assault survivors across the nation along with helping others across the nation understand the pain and horror of such a crime.

Within days of the sentencing hearing, Persky was quietly “re-elected” to a six-year term without a vote because he had drawn no challengers.

A recall effort was quickly initiated, and a Change.org petition drew more than 1.3 million supporters. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber has led the charge.

“Judge Persky has failed women in a very significant way, and the voters are going to hold him accountable,” Dauber said. “Many eyes are going to be on Santa Clara County as a model for how to respond to bias against women in the legal system.”

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Persky, who declined to talk with the media in the days and weeks following the sentencing, still will not discuss the case because of pending appeals. But, his polling numbers in decline, Persky did discuss the “misguided” recall effort at a recent news conference.

“We ask judges to follow the rule of law, not the rule of public opinion,” he said. “The recall, if successful, threatens the integrity of our justice system.”