A judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman is facing widespread backlash and criticism, and even calls for him to be removed from the bench.
On campus and on social media, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky has been vilified as too lenient on a privileged athlete from a top-tier swimming program in a case that captured the national spotlight.
Some are urging for his removal in Change.org petitions. One Change.org petition already has more then 100,000 signatures online. There’s also a second campaign to review the case and the judge’s sentence.
“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” the petition reads. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”
Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, a friend of the victim, launched a campaign to remove Persky from the bench.
“This sentence is making all women at Stanford less safe because its sending the message to women student if this happens to you, you are on your own and its sending the message to potential perpetrators I have your back,” Dauber told CBS News’ John Blackstone.
Brock Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in prison after being convicted of three counts of sexual assault in the Jan. 18, 2015 incident. In handing down the six-month sentence, Persky said a longer term would have a “severe impact” on Turner. It was a decision that has drawn widespread criticism.
Brock is expected to serve three months if his behavior in jail is good, CBS San Francisco reported. Turner will also have to register as a sex offender for life and complete a sex offender management program.
Alaleh Kianerci, the prosecutor in the case, told CBS News’ John Blackstone she cried after the sentencing was handed down.
“I felt like I didn’t do my part in representing her interests in the case because of the slap-on-the-wrist sentence,” she said.
Persky is barred from commenting on the case because Turner is appealing his conviction, court spokesman Joe Macaluso said.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office argued for a prison sentence for Turner, said Persky should not lose his job because of the ruling.
“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,” Rosen said in a statement Monday. His office would not comment further.
Persky, who has no record of judicial discipline, was previously a Santa Clara County prosecutor responsible for keeping sexual predators locked up. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to the bench in 2003.
Persky earned two undergraduate degrees from Stanford in 1984 and 1985, and he said in campaign literature that he was captain of the school’s lacrosse team, a club sport. Persky graduated from the University of California, Berkeley’s law school in 1990.
Criticism surrounding the case intensified when Dauber, the law professor, released a letter that Turner’s father wrote to the judge before sentencing, pleading for leniency and telling the court his son has already paid a steep price for “20 minutes of action.”
Turner has left Stanford, whose men’s swim team is one of the top 10 teams in the country this season, and his once-promising Olympic-hopeful swimming career has ended abruptly.
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” the father wrote. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
An emotional statement that the 23-year-old victim read in court also received widespread attention.
Source: CBS News