The California judge who sentenced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious student was voted out of office Tuesday night following a heated recall campaign, the Washington Post reports. Turner only ended up serving three months for his crime, although he was facing a maximum of 14 years in state prison, and he would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life had be been fully convicted.
Voters in Santa Clara County removed Superior Court Judge Aaron Perksy from the bench after spending months attempting to recall the judge, arguing that Persky’s leniency in the sexual assault case was an affront to the victim and all survivors of rape and sexual assault. Perksy, 56, had served on the court since 2003.
According to the Washington Post, as of 12:30 Pacific Time, “59 percent of voters supported recalling Persky, with 51 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.”
Persky’s Supporters Argue That His Recall Threatens to “Erode Democratic Process”
Persky’s supporters counter-argued that removing an elected judge because voters disagreed with a “controversial but lawful” sexual assault sentence would only cause judges across the county to impose harsher sentences for fear of backlash. Supporters also argued that it would “erode democratic process.”
“I think generally judges should accept criticism” Persky said in an interview with CNN. “They should accept responsibility for rulings. But when it gets to the step of a recall — actually recalling a judge primarily based on one decision — that, for me, is a step too far,” he said.
“That’s why I’ve chosen to speak out because I think it threatens the independence of judges in California and perhaps even the nation.”
Persky Ruled That Turner’s Age, Level of Intoxication, & Future Impacted His Lenient Sentence
The results of the vote came nearly two years after Persky’s ruling on the infamous case. 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.
According to CNN, prosecutors had asked for a six-year prison sentence, but Persky agreed with the recommendation from the county probation department, which noted that, “When compared to other crimes of similar nature” the Turner case “may be considered less serious due to (his) level of intoxication.”
The sentencing sparked national outrage, with people from all over the country disgusted by the outcome. Outrage quickly turned to action, and recall efforts were initiated shortly after the sentencing.
Recall Efforts Started Immediately After the Sentencing, Claiming Persky Failed Women Everywhere
A Change.org petition drew more than 1.3 million supporters. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber led the way for the recall effort.
“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.”
“Judge Persky allowed the lenient sentence suggested by the probation department. Turner has shown no remorse and plans to attempt to overturn his conviction,” wrote Maria Ruiz, who started the petition. “Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”
CNN reports that critics of Persky found it ironic that his judicial background also included work as a sex crimes prosecutor, who helped incarcerate people like Turner.
This is a developing story. Heavy will continue to update as more information is known.