This Aaron Persky Update Means The Judge Won't Hear Criminal Cases Going Forward
A Santa Clara judge heavily criticized for handing down a six-month jail sentence to a former Stanford student convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman will no longer hear criminal cases, the Santa Clara County Superior Court revealed in a statement released Thursday. Persky voluntarily recalled himself from any criminal cases going forward. In June, Judge Aaron Persky became the target of intense criticism and a recall campaign for issuing to Brock Turner what many described as a lenient sentence in a case that sparked national debate on sexual assault, rape culture, college drinking, and society's often problematic response to victims.
The Brock Turner case garnered widespread attention after a powerful letter from the victim was published online, bringing the pain that survivors of sexual assault often endure in reporting the attack into the spotlight. Public outrage continued to hound Judge Persky in the fallout of the Turner case, with Stanford law professor Michele Dauber leading an effort to recall him from the bench.
In June, Persky sentenced Turner, a former Stanford student-athlete convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault, to just six months in jail with probation. While prosecutors had sought a two-year prison sentence, the minimum punishment for the three felony counts Turner had been convicted of, Persky said he feared such a sentence would have a "severe impact" on Turner.
Persky's handling of the case ignited global outrage; critics accused him of showing a repeated leniency toward sex offenders, forcing Persky to remove himself from another sex-crime case shortly after for fear his ability to remain impartial had been compromised. Although the case eventually faded from headlines, Persky remained a highly controversial presence in the Santa Clara County Superior Court. In one incident, 10 prospective jurors refused to serve on a jury in an unrelated case Persky was handling, citing their outrage at the sentence he handed down to Turner.
The continued criticism of his sentencing in the Turner case reportedly pushed Persky to request he be reassigned from criminal to civil cases starting Sep. 6, according to Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Rise Pichon. "While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served," Pichon said in a statement obtained by the Mercury News. "Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment." Bustle was unable to reach Persky for comment.
It is unclear if Persky's reassignment will be permanent. Judicial assignments rotate annually with the approval of the court's presiding judge. Turner is expected to be released early on Sep. 2, after serving three months of his six-month sentence, according to Santa Clara County jail records.