A group in California has filed paperwork seeking to remove Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky from the bench for giving Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner only six months for sexual assault.
The group, Committee to Remove Persky, led by a Stanford law professor, is seeking Persky’s recall, and will have 160 days to obtain 59,000 signatures from registered voters. If they achieve their goal, Persky’s recall will appear on the ballot next year during local elections.
“Today we take the first step,” Professor Michele Landis Dauber told media. “Judge Persky has a long history of leniency in cases involving sexual assault. Here in Silicon Valley, women have had enough.”
Persky gained national attention when he sentenced Turner to only six months in prison after he was convicted for three felony sex crimes, even though Turner could have gotten up to 14 years in California state prison.
Persky’s rationale was that Turner was a good kid and a good swimmer and didn’t deserve an extended sentence, even though Turner reportedly sexually assaulted a woman who was passed out behind a Dumpster outside of a fraternity party.
Campus sexual assault activists labeled the sentence a “soft timeout,” and the petitioning group argued that Turner’s sentence is just the latest lenient sentence Persky has given out. In 2015, for example, he delayed a University of Hawaii football player’s sentencing so he could finish out the season.
Persky hasn’t responded to the recall petition, but local lawyers say they’re shocked that a group is going to such extreme circumstances to punish the judge for what they say is an outlier case.
One San Jose defense attorney even told the Washington Post that while he disagreed with Turner’s sentence, the petition “sends the message that we want judges to be harsh and punitive in their sentencing rather than merciful and compassionate.”
An opposition group called Retain Judge Persky told local news that, “Judicial recalls are an extreme step that should be reserved for actual misconduct.”