Judge in Brock Turner Case Responds to Recall Effort

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky was recalled in an election June 2018 after he sentenced an ex-Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. (Jason Doiy/The Recorder)

Judge Aaron Persky issued his first public response Friday to demands for his removal from the bench, more than a year after he sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexual assault and generated widespread outrage over what critics said was an overly lenient punishment.

Turner served three months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated woman behind a dumpster near a fraternity party. He was released in September.

In a response to a recall effort filed with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Persky wrote, “California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders ... and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion.”

The attempt to remove Persky, filed with the registrar on Monday, alleges Persky "has a long history of awarding lenient sentences to athletes and upper-class defendants for sex crimes and violence against women," noting other light sentences for crimes involving violence against women.

The judge wrote that as a former prosecutor, he was an "advocate for battered women" and that "The Associated Press reported that [his] other rulings showed no racial bias and that he closely follows probation department recommendations.”

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Proponents of Persky’s removal signed a statement that said he had shown bias in cases similar to Turner’s.

“Persky kept two different college football players who were convicted of violently attacking women out of jail, letting them keep playing football,” says the notice initiating a recall petition against Persky. And he “gave weekend jail to a high-tech engineer who brutally beat his fiancé.”

Like Turner, Persky is also a former Stanford athlete, the statement points out.

“Recalls should be for judges who have a pattern of bias or misconduct. Judge Persky has neither,” retired Judge LaDoris Cordell wrote on Persky's behalf, according to the judge's filing.

Before voters could decide whether or not to replace Persky, the recall proponents would have to collect tens of thousands of signatures and navigate a series of deadlines and other requirements.

A vote won't happen until July of next year at the earliest, said Anita Torres with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.