The judge who sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman will be up for a recall vote later this year.
The petition to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court has received enough valid signatures to get on the ballot in the state primaries, according to a statement by the court. In June, voters will decide whether to recall him on the statewide primary election ballot.
"The recall vote will be accompanied by a contest to decide who will replace Judge Persky if he is removed from office," according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
Many were shocked by the light sentencing — of which former Stanford University swimmer Turner only served three months — and advocates have been calling for Persky's removal ever since.
"Judge Persky did not just make a single bad decision," Michelle Dauber, chair of Recall Judge Aaron Persky, said in a statement back in July. "He made a slew of bad decisions involving sex crimes and violence against women." She continued: "The single biggest threat to judicial independence is a biased judge like Judge Persky, because his bias diminishes public confidence in the justice system."
Turner could have faced up to 14 years in prison, according to the Associated Press.
Turner was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster in January 2015, at the time blaming his actions on "peer pressure" and the "party culture" at his school. The powerful letter the woman wrote still resonates with many survivors.
As we wrote back when he made those statements, "'Party culture' doesn't rape people," and neither do a woman's outfit choices or how much she had to drink. "Rapists rape people."
While Turner was indicted on charges of rape, he was only found guilty of sexual assault. Persky has been criticised for going easy on him, saying, "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." Nevertheless, the state of California expanded its definition of rape as a result of the case, paving the way for future cases to be tried more fairly.
Persky was a former lacrosse player at Stanford, and advocates have pointed out his leniency toward other college athletes. He has faced intense backlash ever since Turner's sentencing. In June 2016, he was removed from another sexual assault case at the request of the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office.
He has publicly defended himself. “California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders,” Persky said in a 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 any personal opinions I might have as a former prosecutor.”
Persky’s attorney, Elizabeth Pipkin, said in a statement to San Francisco's KGO, "Our firm has always been committed to protecting the law — the civil rights of all within our community and country. The recall effort does not comply with the California Constitution. It's unlawful, and in defending the Constitution and the independence of judges, we are protecting the rights of all citizens."
Regardless of the outcome, Turner's case helped start a national conversation about sexual violence. It is, you could even say, a textbook case: His photo appears in a criminal justice textbook next to the definition of rape.
The caption under his mug shot reads: "Brock Turner, a Stanford student who raped and assaulted an unconscious female college student behind a Dumpster at a fraternity party, was recently released from jail after serving only three months. Some are shocked at how short this sentence is. Others who are more familiar with the way sexual violence has been handled in the criminal justice system are shocked that he was found guilty at all."