Judge’s re­call is sought over light sen­tence

Ju­rist is tar­geted for is­su­ing a six-month jail term to a Stan­ford ath­lete for sex as­sault.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Veron­ica Rocha veron­ica.rocha@la­times.com

A group of ac­tivists has filed pa­per­work to launch a re­call elec­tion against a Santa Clara County judge who was crit­i­cized for his de­ci­sion to sen­tence a for­mer Stan­ford Univer­sity swim­mer to six months in jail for sex­u­ally as­sault­ing an un­con­scious woman.

Fifty ac­tivists, who are be­ing led by Stan­ford law pro­fes­sor Michele Dauber, turned in a no­tice of in­tent with the Santa Clara County regis­trar of vot­ers, set­ting into mo­tion a com­plex se­ries of steps to re­move Su­pe­rior Court Judge Aaron Per­sky from the bench in the next elec­tion cy­cle.

“Santa Clara County res­i­dents de­serve a judge who will pro­tect vic­tims, not rapists,” Dauber said at a news con­fer­ence Mon­day.

In March 2016, Brock Turner, a three-time Al­lAmer­i­can high school swim­mer, was found guilty of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a woman be­hind a dump­ster af­ter a fra­ter­nity party.

The col­lege ath­lete was fac­ing a max­i­mum sen­tence of 14 years in prison for the Jan­uary 2015 as­sault.

Pros­e­cu­tors asked Per­sky to sen­tence him to six years in prison.

Be­fore the judge’s de­ci­sion, Dauber and more than 250 stu­dents sub­mit­ted let­ters to Per­sky, plead­ing that Turner be held ac­count­able for his ac­tions.

Turner’s chief pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer had rec­om­mended a sen­tence of county jail, three years of pro­ba­tion and sex of­fender treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to her pro­ba­tion re­port.

In June 2016, Per­sky sen­tenced the then-20-year-old Turner to six months in county jail and three years’ pro­ba­tion, stat­ing that a harsher penalty would have a “se­vere im­pact.” Be­cause of Cal­i­for­nia’s felony sen­tenc­ing re­align­ment, Turner served only half of the sen­tence.

Crit­ics slammed the sen­tence as be­ing too le­nient, and an ef­fort to re­call Per­sky was launched.

Although Per­sky was cleared of mis­con­duct by the Cal­i­for­nia Com­mis­sion on Ju­di­cial Per­for­mance, the sen­tence sparked out­rage na­tion­wide.

Per­sky later was moved to a civil court in San Jose to re­duce court­room dis­trac­tion af­ter the Turner case.

Af­ter Per­sky’s con­tro­ver­sial rul­ing, law­mak­ers passed leg­is­la­tion in Cal­i­for­nia this year that ex­panded the def­i­ni­tion of rape and in­creased penal­ties for of­fend­ers who as­sault un­con­scious vic­tims.

Since the “no­tice of in­tent” was filed Mon­day, Per­sky has un­til July 3 to turn in a writ­ten re­sponse, said Anita Tor­res, spokes­woman for the county’s regis­trar of vot­ers. The re­sponse must be no longer than 200 words.

In his re­sponse, Per­sky will prob­a­bly try to make a case for why he should re­main in of­fice.

Both the group’s no­tice and Per­sky’s re­sponse will be in­cluded in the next elec­tion’s voter guide, Tor­res said.

From there, the group must file an of­fi­cial re­call pe­ti­tion, which must be re­viewed and ap­proved by elec­tion of­fi­cials. The group will then have 160 days to gather sig­na­tures and turn them in to the elec­tions of­fice.

They must col­lect 58,634 sig­na­tures, which is 20% of the votes counted in the last coun­ty­wide ju­di­cial elec­tion, in Novem­ber 2014, Tor­res said.

Af­ter the sig­na­tures are ver­i­fied and ap­proved by elec­tion of­fi­cials, the county Board of Su­per­vi­sors must move for­ward a res­o­lu­tion au­tho­riz­ing the re­call elec­tion.

All of these steps must be com­pleted be­fore March 9 for the re­call to be com­bined with the June 5, 2018, coun­ty­wide elec­tion, Tor­res said. How­ever, a June 5 elec­tion is not guar­an­teed.

Pa­per­work re­quire­ments, sig­na­ture counts or board sched­ul­ing could cause de­lays in the process, she said.

“Re­call is a re­ally com­pli­cated process,” Tor­res said. “There are so many dif­fer­ent steps.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dauber, the Stan­ford pro­fes­sor, the group is plan­ning to col­lect 90,000 sig­na­tures in Santa Clara County.

Dauber claims Per­sky has shown bias in his rul­ing from the bench.

“We can’t al­low this pat­tern of be­hav­ior to con­tinue any longer,” she said. “We must do all we can to re­call Judge Per­sky and in­stead elect a judge that un­der­stands sex­ual as­sault and vi­o­lence against women and takes it se­ri­ously.”

Ja­son Doiy Recorder

A RE­CALL vote next June is be­ing sought for Santa Clara County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Aaron Per­sky.

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