Voters in Santa Clara County, Calif., will decide whether Judge Aaron Persky, the state judge who sentenced former Stanford undergraduate Brock Turner to six months in prison for sexual assault, will remain in office.
Persky, who is fighting the recall against the advice of friends and family, called the backlash his sentence engendered “fundamentally unfair” in a May 18 interview with The Associated Press and warned a foundational principle is at stake.
“To get justice from a judge, they need someone who follows the rules,” Persky told The AP. “The basic rule is the rule of law. The problem with this recall is it will pressure judges to follow the rule of public opinion as opposed to the rule of law.”
Recall organizers say the Turner sentence is the latest iteration of the judge’s persistent leniency with male defendants accused of sexual assault — particularly student athletes. The California Commission on Judicial Performance rejected those allegations in a December 2016 report, finding his sentencing practices aligned with recommendations from probation officers or negotiated agreements between prosecutors and defense lawyers. Recall supporters vigorously dispute those findings.
The case earned national notoriety after his victim, identified only as “Emily Doe” in court papers, delivered a victim-impact statement that became a viral sensation. (RELATED: With Avenatti In The Spotlight, His Own Questionable Past Emerges)
The campaign to recall Persky commands support from prominent Democrats and interest groups across the country including the National Organization for Women, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and much of California’s congressional delegation.
“No one should be subjected to sexual assault or harassment,” Gillibrand said in a statement supporting the effort. “And when it occurs and victims come forward, the justice system must treat them fairly and with respect and dignity. Judge Persky did not do that and should be held accountable.”
A simple majority is required to recall the judge, and a plurality is required to elect his successor. Two other candidates are standing for the judgeship — Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson and San Jose lawyer Angela Storey.
Just three judges have been removed from office in California history, according to The San Jose Mercury News. Persky would be the first in nearly a century.
A Mercury News poll found 46 percent of voters favor Persky’s removal, while 33 percent oppose it. The election is slated for June 5.
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