In June of last year, Stanford University student Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months of jail time and three years of probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the university's campus. He was released from Santa Clara County jail after serving three months. A little over year after Turner's sentencing, 50 California residents are taking legal steps to recall Judge Aaron Persky, who oversaw the Turner case.
“Today we take the first step,” said Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, who is leading the committee attempting to have the judge recalled. “Judge Persky has a long history of leniency in cases involving sexual assault. Here in Silicon Valley, women have had enough.” She added, "Women have had enough of rape culture. We are ready to take action and recall this judge."
Judge Persky has one week to respond to the petition filed by the 50 residents. The committee seeking his removal will then have 150 days to garner 58,634 from registered Santa Clara County voters. If they are successful, the judge's recall will be placed on the state's June 5, 2018, primary election ballot.
The judge insists he has a "reputation for being fair to both sides" on a website he created. He writes, "I believe strongly in judicial independence. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to appease politicians or ideologues."
The public's fierce opposition to Persky has been persistent since last June. One Change.org petition asking for his removal currently has over 1.3 million signatures. Opponents of Persky's claim he has a record of delivering lenient sentences or showing preference to alleged perpetrators of not just sexual assault, but also domestic violence — many being student athletes like Turner, a swimmer. His supporters, however, say Persky is trying to give young people a chance at rehabilitation instead of sticking them in prison.
One such case was that of Ikaika Gunderson, a University of Hawaii football player; Persky opted to delay sentencing for Gunderson, who pleaded no contest to choking and beating a former girlfriend. Persky also lightened Gunderson's sentence from a possible four years in prison to completing a one-year program on domestic violence.
"We are going to work day and night for the next 12 months, and we are going to recall Aaron Persky from office," a former California city mayor Bob Livengood said on Monday. He added that collecting the required number of signatures would not be an issue.