Aaron Persky, Judge in Stanford Brock Turner Rape Case Recalled
In a new era brought on by the #MeToo Movement that is less tolerant of sexual assault, voters went to the polls in Santa Clara County, California and delivered what many see as another victory for rape survivors. Santa Clara County voters voted 60-40 to remove Judge Aaron Persky, the judge who presided on the Brock Turner Stanford rape case, from office over his perceived bias in sentencing convictions.
Persky’s handling of the Turner case was widely criticized after he sentenced Turner, who was found guilty on three counts of felony sexual assault, to a sentence of six-months in 2016. Immediate reaction accused Persky of white male and class bias in favor of Turner.
At the time of the sentencing, Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him. Turner’s victim submitted a victim impact statement of over 7,000 words which went viral and described the devastating impact of Turner’s rape on her.
Turner had raped her behind a garbage dumpster on the Stanford University campus after both had attended a Kappa Alpha fraternity. Two Swedish graduate students riding by on bicycles stopped when they spotted Turner assaulting an apparently unconscious woman. One of the men testified that he confronted Turner, asking him, “What the fuck are you doing? She’s unconscious.” The witness testified Turner then quickly rose and fled until the two witnesses caught up to him and pinned him down.
The victim came to in the hospital hours later and stated that she had not consented to any sexual activity. As his defense, Turner maintained that she had consented to sexual activity.
With the conviction, Turner faced up to 14 years in jail. Prosecutors recommended six years in jail, and a probation officer’s report to Judge Persky recommended a “moderate” county jail term. With Persky’s six-month sentence, Turner only served three months and was released in September of 2016.
The Turner case and the outrage over Turner’s perceived lenient sentence resulted just months later in a change to California law. Within four months, California closed a loophole which allowed sexual assault with an intoxicated victim to be punished less harshly and enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases.
In December 2016, a California panel cleared Persky of any official misconduct. But outrage over Persky’s sentence never died down and a movement to recall Persky began almost immediately. On Tuesday that almost two-year campaign to first collect enough signatures to get the issue of recalling Persky on the ballot and then the campaign to win the actual vote came to fruition. Persky is the first California judge to be recalled in over 80 years.
Many who stood in defense of Persky argued for his support on the grounds of needing to protect judicial independence from the “court of public opinion.” Others worried how mandatory sexual assault sentencing would disproportionately affect minority offenders.
The voters spoke, and now Persky is out.