Aaron Persky, the California judge criticized for his sentence of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, has been recalled by voters, making him the first California judge recalled since 1932.
According to The New York Times, Persky had served on the Santa Clara County Superior Court since the year 2003, and had been slated to continue his term through 2022. But voters chose to recall him in the culmination of a campaign that started shortly after his sentencing of Turner in 2016.
Turner, who was a freshman on the Stanford swimming roster during the 2014-2015 season, was arrested in January of 2015 after being found on top of an unconscious woman near a fraternity house on the Stanford campus and was immediately expelled from the university and the swim team. By March of 2016, he was eventually found guilty of three charges: assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. Two months later, Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail. Turner would only wind up spending three months in jail. He is no longer eligible for USA Swimming membership, and he will have to register as a sex offender for life (though he recently appealed his conviction with the hope of overturning that requirement).
The decision was widely criticized, and went viral even outside the swimming community. Turner could have faced up to 10 years in prison, and reports said the prosecution asked Persky for six years in prison. Persky referenced Turner’s age and lack of criminal history in handing out only six months in jail, but that decision was widely criticized on social media and elsewhere, and a campaign began almost immediately to recall Persky.
The New York Times reports that recall supporters gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot of an election this week. Persky released a statement saying that despite his background as a prosecutor, he had a professional and legal responsibility to consider alternatives to prison for offenders without prior convictions:
“As a judge, my role is to consider both sides,” he said in the statement. “It’s not always popular, but it’s the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor.”