The Santa Clara County judge who sentenced ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a passed-out woman by a dumpster has been cleared of misconduct.
Judge Aaron Persky’s sentencing in the Turner case fell within the “parameters set by law,” according to a 12-page report released Monday by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. The panel also determined that Persky displayed no pattern of bias in four other cases cited by his detractors.
The ruling concludes a months-long investigation of past cases and review of thousands of complaints about Persky. Critics accused him of displaying socioeconomic, racial and gender bias, among other things, by granting Turner anything less than prison time.
“The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline,” the report states.
The findings didn’t sit well with Persky’s critics, who vowed to forge ahead with their campaign to have him recalled from the bench.
“We strongly disagree with the commission’s conclusion on judicial bias and we believe that Judge Persky has in fact demonstrated a clear pattern of bias in cases of sex crimes and violence against women,” Michele Dauber, a Stanford University law professor and head of the campaign to oust Perksy, wrote in a prepared statement.
— Recall Persky (@RecallPersky) December 20, 2016
In March, a jury convicted Turner of three felonies: assault with intent to rape and two counts of sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with his fingers. Under state law, each of those violations comes with a maximum penalty of up to six years in prison. Also under state law, at least at the time, the judge had the option of granting probation.
Persky hewed more to the probation officer’s recommendation, sentencing then-20-year-old Turner to six months in jail, three years probation and a lifetime of treatment and supervision as a registered sex offender. Turner served three months in jail and moved back to his family’s home in Ohio for the remainder of his sentence.
In handing down the sentence, Persky acknowledged the difficulty of the decision and the pain expressed by the victim, named Emily Doe in court records. The judge said he understood that the victim’s life has been devastated by the assault. In addition, he added, the investigation, court proceedings and media attention “in a way, sort of poisoned the lives of the people that have been affected by the defendant’s actions.
“Is state prison for this defendant an antidote to that poison?” Persky asked in court. “Is incarceration in state prison the right answer for the poisoning of [Emily Doe’s] life? And trying to balance the factors in the Rules of Court, I conclude that it is not, and that justice would best be served, ultimately, with a grant of probation.”
The outrage against Persky erupted immediately after the June sentencing hearing once the victim’s devastating impact statement went viral on social media. Persky’s critics contend that a non-white, economically underprivileged defendant would have received a harsher penalty, and the judge should have recused himself from the case because he graduated from Stanford.
The outrage pushed state legislators to pass a new law that requires prison time for sexually assaulting anyone who is unconscious or intoxicated. It also prompted Dauber to lead the charge on a recall campaign that has raised more than $300,000.
Persky has formed a committee to protect his seat on the bench and has collected donations from allies, including a number of defense attorneys. The judge’s defenders maintain that recalling Persky over an unpopular decision would undermine the constitutional principle of judicial independence.
Shaunna Thomas, who co-founded the women’s rights group UltraViolet, condemned the judicial commission’s report. In a prepared statement, she called the ruling “an insult to survivors of sexual assault everywhere.”
Click here to read a copy of the judicial commission report.