A US judge who was widely criticised for his leniency towards a campus rapist has been removed from office by voters. Judge Aaron Persky handed Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner a six-month sentence in June 2016. But county judges in California are elected, and if a petition to remove them from office garners enough signatures a vote will be held. Such elections are rare the last time a US judge was recalled was in 1977. Tuesday’s vote in Santa Clara County marks the first time a Californian judge has been removed in this way for more than 80 years.
“We are outraged at [his] actions, and we don’t just want talk, we want to take him out of office,” an earlier statement from the campaign to remove him said. “Persky is unfit to sit on the bench,” it added. The former Santa Clara County judge recently said he had no regrets about the case. He has also been cleared of misconduct by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. Turner was seen by two other students sexually assaulting his victim, now 23, behind an outdoor rubbish bin in January 2015.
In March 2016, he was found guilty of three felony charges and faced up to 14 years in prison. But he was handed a much shorter sentence after Judge Persky expressed concern about the impact prison would have on him. The case sparked a national debate about sexual assault and whether wealthy white men are treated more favorably in court. Turner was released after serving only three months in county jail. It has been a long process that started when community leaders in the county began collecting signatures to recall Judge Persky last June.
They needed to gather 58,634 signatures 20% of the voting electorate in 160 days. Doing so meant voters in Tuesday’s countywide elections would vote on removing him. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber led the recall effort along with 50 community leaders. “Women have had enough of rape culture,” she said at a news conference last year. “Santa Clara County residents deserve a judge who will protect victims.”