— -- In a damning reversal recently, a Santa Clara district attorney who'd originally shown support for an embattled judge under fire for the sentence he imposed in a Stanford sexual assault case opted to block that judge from taking on a different one.
In a statement Tuesday, DA Jeff Rosen said: "We lack confidence that Judge [Aaron] Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient."
On June 3, Persky sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, 20, to six months in prison and three years of probation after he was found guilty in March of sexually assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious woman on campus.
The ruling prompted outrage across the country from critics as well as abusive and threatening phone calls.
In an earlier statement, Rosen said that "while I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case, I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship."
On Tuesday, Rosen said seeking Persky's removal from that case was "a rare and carefully considered step for our Office."
"In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice," he said in a statement.
Santa Clara deputy public defender Gary Goodman called Persky a "great jurist" who follows the rules and treats everyone fairly. He said the actions being taken against Persky were "absurd."
In Palo Alto, nearly a dozen would-be jurors refused to take part in a separate misdemeanor case because Persky was presiding. And so far, more than 1.2 million signatures have been collected for a petition on the website Change.org that calls for Persky's removal.
"We the people would like to petition that Judge Aaron Persky be removed from his judicial position for the lenient sentence he allowed in the Brock Turner rape case," reads a statement on the petition's page. "Despite a unanimous guilty verdict, three felony convictions, the objections of 250 Stanford students, Jeff Rosen, the district attorney for Santa Clara, as well as the deputy district attorney who likened Turner to a predator searching for prey, Judge Persky allowed the lenient sentence suggested by the probation department."
Another petition is also under way that could get Persky legally removed from office, if it garners the signatures of 70,000 residents.
Persky is on a planned vacation.
"It's just not right for a jurist of his ability," Goodman said. "You want people like that on the bench and you do not want that to be quelled by these kinds of attacks. ... It's OK to disagree with the [Stanford] sentence like Rosen did but the other stuff is way overboard."
Persky has not commented publicly about his decision because Turner plans to appeal his conviction. He is expected to be released three months early on Sept. 2.
ABC News' Matt Gutman, Michael Edison Hayden and Morgan Winsor contributed to this story.