SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. — A California judge whose sentence for a former Stanford University swimmer in a sex assault case garnered national controversy broke his silence Tuesday ahead of next month’s recall vote.
The effort to recall Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky is being closely watched for its national political implications. If it’s successful, Persky would be the first California judge recalled from office in 86 years after he sentenced then-sophomore Brock Turner to six months in jail in June 2016 for sexually assaulting a young woman.
The short jail sentence sparked national outrage months before the Me Too movement took off.
The case garnered national attention when BuzzFeed published the victim’s emotional account of the attack and its aftermath, which she read in court before Persky sentenced Turner. A jury had found Turner guilty of assaulting the woman while she was incapacitated by alcohol outside an on-campus fraternity house in January 2015.
Persky said he’s remained silent because judges should be accustomed to criticism of their rulings. But he said the recall effort “demands a response” because it threatens the rule of law.
He said judges often face criticism for ruling according to the law and not public opinion. He said the judicial recall, if successful, would be a “silent corrupting force” that would enter the minds of judges when they contemplate difficult decisions.
“We should give judges the courage to make those hard decisions,” he said.