California voters oust judge who sentenced Stanford swimmer to six months for sexual assault

In this May 15, 2018 file photo, Judge Aaron Persky poses for a photo with a sign opposing his recall in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Northern California voters are deciding on Tuesday, June 5 whether to remove Persky from officePlayAP
WATCH Campaign to Oust Judge in Stanford Sexual Assault Case Gains Steam

Outrage led to change in at least one election Tuesday night when Californians voted to recall a judge whom many viewed as being too lenient in a high-profile sexual assault and attempted rape case.

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Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gained national prominence after sentencing Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner in 2016 to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party in 2015. He was 19 at the time.

Some of the backlash against Persky, a judge for 15 years, also stemmed from Turner’s being sentenced to jail rather than prison. The judge cited the "severe impact" that prison would have on the athlete.

Turner, who denied assaulting the 22-year-old woman, was eventually released from jail after three months for good behavior.

Prosecutors had sought a 6-year sentence, though the crimes were punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

In this May 15, 2018 file photo, Judge Aaron Persky poses for photos in Los Altos Hills, Calif. AP
In this May 15, 2018 file photo, Judge Aaron Persky poses for photos in Los Altos Hills, Calif.

Judgment day came for Persky, 56, Tuesday night, as part of the statewide primaries, when voters in Santa Clara County voted to remove Persky from the bench.

With 88 percent of precincts reporting by Wednesday morning, the vote to recall Persky had 59.75 percent, while the "no" votes stood at 40.25 percent.

The recall effort has dogged Persky since he handed down the sentence in June 2016 after a jury convicted Turner of three felonies.

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who had led the charge against Persky, released a statement today about the meaning of their effort's win.

"The voters of Santa Clara County are the winners of this election," Dauber said in a statement released by the Recall Judge Persky Campaign. "We voted today against impunity for high status perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence. We voted that sexual violence is serious and it must be taken seriously by our elected officials. In this historical moment, when women’s rights are under attack, the women and many men of this county stood our ground."

Dauber also posted a tweet about the victory early Wednesday morning, touting the recall movement's efforts in sustaining public interest over the past two years.

Dauber's effort, which organized behind the Recall Persky Campaign, raised more than $1 million in donations, according to ABC San Francisco station KGO-TV.

The judge's defenders raised more than $850,000, which included donated services, KGO reported

Persky told The Associated Press in May that he has no regrets about his handling of the case, which he has said followed existing legal guidelines.

"The problem with this recall is it will pressure judges to follow the rule of public opinion as opposed to the rule of law," Persky said.

Persky held his first public news conference days before the AP interview and declined to speak about the details of the case because it was going through the appeal process in which Turner argues that the trial was "fundamentally unfair.”

During the May 8 news conference, Persky said the threat of a recall was "subtle and insidious, silent corrupting force … that will enter the minds of judges as they contemplate difficult decisions."

Persky has not released a public statement in the wake of the recall. Back in May, when asked what he would do if recalled, Persky said he would go on to do something productive.