Petition to Oust Judge Who Gave Lenient Sentence to Stanford Rapist

Judge Aaron Persky

Outrage broke out last week after former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner received a light six-month sentence after he was convicted of raping an unconscious female student. Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen called the sentence “unjust,” while Turner's father said his son should not be punished for 20 minutes of “action.” 

Justice is now being sought not against Turner — who could do as little as three months in Santa Clara County jail for the crime — but against the judge who gave him the sentence. (He was eligible for time in state prison, which is what his victim asked for.)  

Several petitions were started over the weekend seeking to remove Judge Aaron Persky from Santa Clara County Superior Court. The judge — himself a Stanford grad — is running unopposed for re-election Tuesday.

[jump] Persky gave Turner six months in jail and three months probation, despite the District Attorney’s Office asking for six years in state prison. Turner will also have to register as a sex offender for life.

Persky said his decision was influenced by Turner’s character, lack of a criminal history, and ability to show remorse for his actions.

The sentence outraged many, and a letter the victim read before sentencing was widely shared online.

The sentence also prompted a handful of petitions seeking to remove Persky from the bench, with at least six appearing on change.org. Michelle Daubner, a Stanford Law professor, also vowed to start a petition and has been using her Twitter account to speak out about the case, including posting the absurdly tone-deaf letter from Turner’s father defending his son. One change.org petition had nearly 50,000 signatures as of this morning.

When Persky first ran for the judgeship in 2002, he highlighted his work in the Santa Clara DA’s Office prosecuting sex and hate crimes. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Support Network for Battered Women.

After graduating from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, Persky worked for San Francisco Superior Court judges for a year. He then joined international law firm Morrison & Foerster, which is headquartered in San Francisco, for five years before going to Santa Clara.

A recall is possible, though it’s difficult. Signatures equaling at least 20 percent of the votes cast for the judge in the last election must be gathered. Because Persky is up for re-election Tuesday, the recall would likely be based on those results, which won’t be certified for weeks. And since he is running unopposed, Persky will likely be re-elected.

Turner’s rape case stems from January 2015, the same year the documentary The Hunting Ground was released. The film exposed the nationwide epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, including Berkeley and Stanford, and how schools try to cover up the cases and victimize the victims. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of former San Francisco mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, was an executive producer.

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