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Stanford rape case judge Aaron Persky removed from office

Wednesday - 06/06/2018 12:53
A US judge who was widely criticised for his leniency towards a campus rapist has been removed from office by voters.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY/ PERSKYFORJUDGE.COM / Brock Turner (left) was sentenced by Judge Aaron Persky (right)
SANTA CLARA COUNTY/ PERSKYFORJUDGE.COM / Brock Turner (left) was sentenced by Judge Aaron Persky (right)

Judge Aaron Persky handed Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner a six-month sentence in June 2016.

But county judges in California are elected, and if a petition to remove them from office garners enough signatures a vote will be held.

Such elections are rare - the last time a US judge was recalled was in 1977.

Tuesday's vote in Santa Clara County marks the first time a Californian judge has been removed in this way for more than 80 years.

Reacting to the result, the campaign to unseat Judge Persky said the voters of Santa Clara were the winners. 

"We voted today against impunity for high status perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence," chair of Recall Persky, Michelle Dauber said.

The former Santa Clara County judge recently said he had no regrets about the case and had been bound by sentencing and probation guidelines. 

Mr Persky said judges should adhere to "the rule of law and not the rule of public opinion".

He has been cleared of misconduct by the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

What happened in the Stanford case?

Turner, 20 at the time, was seen by two other students sexually assaulting his victim behind a rubbish bin outdoors in January 2015.

The trial heard how the victim, then 22, was intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness after attending a party on campus. 

In March 2016, Turner was found guilty of three felony charges and faced up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a six-year term. 

But he was handed the much shorter six-month sentence and three years probation after Judge Persky expressed concern about the impact prison would have on him. 

He cited the Turner's age, lack of criminal record and the fact that both the perpetrator and the victim were intoxicated. 

A plane flies over Stanford University with a banner reading 'Protect Survivors. Not Rapists. #PerskyMustGo'
GETTY IMAGES
A campaign was launched to remove Californian county Judge Aaron Persky from office
 

The case sparked a national debate about sexual assault and whether wealthy white men are treated more favourably in court.

Turner was released after serving only three months in county jail. He is on the sex-offenders register and has appealed against his conviction. 

Outrage at the sentencing was compounded by a letter from his father, Dan Turner, saying his son's life would "never be the one that he dreamed about... a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life". 

What about the victim?

The victim, who has remained anonymous, directly addressed Turner in court in a moving impact statement that was widely read online.

"You don't know me, but you've been inside me, and that's why we're here today," it began. 

She goes on to describe the shock at realising she had been raped, after drinking at a party on campus.

"The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. 

"I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. 

"A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person."

After rebutting Turner's court defence in sometimes graphic detail, she continues: 

"You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was 'unconscious intoxicated woman', 10 syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity." 

How did the recall election come about?

It has been a long process that started when community leaders in the county began collecting signatures to recall Judge Persky last June.

They needed to gather 58,634 signatures - 20% of the voting electorate - in 160 days. Doing so meant voters in Tuesday's countywide elections would vote on removing him.

Michelle Dauber, a Stanford law professor, led the recall effort along with 50 community leaders. 

In further reaction, she said: "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.

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