Op-Ed: Recall Persky to Stand Up for Victims of Sexual Assault

Nearly 100,000 Santa Clara County voters signed a petition to put the recall of Judge Aaron Persky on the June 5 ballot. We believe Persky should be replaced with a new judge because he has a pattern of bias in favor of privileged perpetrators in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child pornography.

The most notorious case was Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. On Wednesday we will hold a rally to stand up for the victim in that case.

Persky, a former lacrosse captain at Stanford, sentenced Turner to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster outside a frat party. A jury convicted Turner on three felony counts, including assault with intent to rape and sexual penetration of an unconscious and intoxicated person. Turner faced 14 years in prison for his crimes—he only served 90 days.

Recall supporters at a Bay Area rally.

For women in Santa Clara County, Brock Turner’s sentence isn’t just shocking, it’s dangerous. It reinforces the myth that sexual assault is not a serious crime. It discourages victims from coming forward to seek justice when even a jury verdict results in a slap on the wrist.

Both the Mercury News and the Palo Alto Weekly have endorsed the recall. The Merc wrote that “the recall will make it easier for victims to come forward and encourage prosecutors to aggressively pursue cases. Voters need to stand up and make a statement on behalf of women and men about the seriousness of sexual assault. Persky’s sentence failed to do so to an extent that he never will again be able to serve as a respected, effective judge. He should be recalled.”

The Weekly, a moderate and highly respected local paper located in the community where the assault occurred and where Persky lives, was even more withering in its criticism of Persky, writing that “Judge Persky abused his discretion, disrespected a jury, failed a crime victim and broke trust with the public he serves. There is no judicial accountability if these failures don’t lead to his removal from office.”

That’s why recall supporters include over 50 elected officials in Santa Clara County and beyond, including US Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, Representatives Ro Khanna and Eric Swalwell, State Senators Kevin de Leon, Jerry Hill and Jim Beall civil rights leaders such as Dolores Huerta and Anita Hill, and organizations including the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, the South Bay Labor Council, the California Nurses Association, the Silicon Valley Young Democrats and the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club.

Even judges and lawyers opposed to the recall harshly criticize the Turner sentence. Former Judge Ron del Pozzo, recently retired after 15 years on the bench, said the expected sentence would have been four to six years. He called six months in jail “inconsistent with the jury verdict based on other people who have been tried for similar offenses and sentenced for similar offenses” in this county. According to Del Pozzo, “you see people get a year for the first residential burglary without any history. You see people get a year for having several DUIs behind them and having a fourth.”

Former Judge LaDoris Cordell, also a Persky supporter, called the sentence an example of “white privilege.” Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the Berkeley Law School labeled it an “abuse of discretion.” District Attorney Jeff Rosen, saying he “lacked confidence” that Persky could “fairly participate,” disqualified Persky from another case of sexual assault of an unconscious victim.

Persky only sentenced approximately 64 cases involving sex crimes and violence against women during his 19 months in felony court. Many of those cases show a similar bias.

For example, Ikaika Gunderson was from a Stanford-connected family, and played football for Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. He was convicted of felony domestic violence for beating and choking his ex-girlfriend and pushing her headfirst out of a car.

Persky abused his discretion by allowing Gunderson to move to Hawaii to play college football with no probation or monitoring and without notifying Hawaii, in violation of state and federal law. He was then rearrested for domestic violence in a third state.

In another case, a Sunnyvale man named Robert Chain was convicted of felony child pornography for possessing dozens of images of little girls in sexual situations, including an infant. Persky sentenced Chain to only four days in jail, rather than the six-month sentence dispensed by other judges in this county.

Persky made the plea offer, not the DA. Persky also said he would be “receptive” to reducing the felony to a misdemeanor after only a year, contrary to the probation recommendation. A Persky supporter and public defender called Chain’s short sentence “eye-raising” and said it is appropriate for offenses like disturbing the peace or public intoxication, not felony child porn.

Even before Persky became a criminal court judge he attracted criticism for his handling of the “De Anza Gang Rape” civil trial.

In that case, Persky allowed the college baseball players accused of committing the “De Anza Gang Rape” to show the jury photos taken months later of the teenaged victim in a skimpy outfit, supposedly to prove she didn’t suffer from trauma. The victim’s lawyers said that they believed Persky “protected” the perpetrators.

Persky’s response to the recall echoes this record. He hired Donald Trump’s Arizona state director, Brian Seitchik, for his campaign. Not surprisingly, the Persky campaign has repeatedly blamed the victim in the Turner case, justifying the lenient sentence by pointing to the fact that Emily Doe was highly intoxicated.

In a Vogue article last week, Persky’s campaign lawyer, spokesperson and largest donor— donating approximately $500,000 to Persky’s campaign to fund Persky’s frivolous, failed legal attempt to block the recall—engaged in a series victim-blaming statements.

McManis told Vogue that Emily Doe, the woman assaulted by Stanford swimmer Brock Turner “was not attacked,” noting that she “had been drinking before she arrived at the fraternity party.”

McManis went further the next day, stating in the Mercury News that he believed Turner's version of events that were rejected by the jury and telling the Daily Post that Turner was not a predator because he didn’t jump out from behind a dumpster.

That’s why the above-mentioned Wednesday rally will take place at 9:30am outside McManis’ office at 50 W. San Fernando St., in San Jose.

Another of Persky’s most important endorsers, former federal judge Arthur Weissbrodt, then took to facebook to defend Persky’s light sentence for Turner because the “drunk girl” was only penetrated with Turner’s fingers not his penis.

Meanwhile, we have had silence from Persky.

The judge has failed to disavow these comments from his campaign’s lawyer and from prominent supporters. Instead, when asked by CBS not whether he would change Turner’s sentence but merely whether he would now be more sensitive to the concerns of women as a result of the #MeToo movement, his answer was “absolutely not.” This helps to make it clear why so many Santa Clara County voters believe that it is time for him to leave the bench.

Victims of sexual assault and domestic violence will not come forward if they think they will be blamed for the crimes committed against them. They will not seek justice if at the end of a long process of medical examinations, invasive questions,  and humiliating testimony is a slap on the wrist for their victimizers.

Opponents of the campaign to recall Persky say that recalls threaten “judicial independence” and should be reserved for judges who violate the law. In fact, Persky did violate federal and state law when he sent a convicted felon to Hawaii to play football without even notifying that state.

But the larger point is that judges are elected officials under the California Constitution, which gives to voters the power to elect judges and to recall them. That’s why the nonpartisan California Constitution Center concluded that judicial recalls are part of our constitutional mechanism for balancing the competing value sets of independence and accountability. The Persky campaign’s radical view that elected judges are unaccountable to voters is anti-democratic and contrary the California Constitution.

Santa Clara County voters deserves judges who take sexual violence seriously and who are not biased in favor of athletes and other privileged perpetrators. Voters have a right to express that value at the ballot box, and we expect they will do that on June 5 by voting to recall Persky.

This column was submitted by the Recall Persky campaign and signed by the following recall supporters: Rebeca Armendariz, Political Community Organizer, SEIU-USWW, Co-Chair Recall Persky; Prameela Bartholomeusz, Corporate Finance and Business Executive, Santa Clara County Democratic Party Executive Board member, Co-Chair Recall Persky; Michele Dauber, Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, Chair, Committee to Recall Judge Persky; Jenny Bradanini, President Women’s March Bay Area, Co-Chair Recall Persky; LezLi Levin Logan, Lead Administrator, Action Together Bay Area; Co-Chair Recall Persky; Jennie Richardson, Board Member, Women’s March Bay Area, Co-Chair Recall Persky; Dr. Sophia Yen MD., MPH, Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Co-Chair Recall Persky; Nicole Bratz, Software Engineer, Co-Chair Recall Persky; Sita Stukes, Board Member, Women’s March Bay Area, Co-Chair Recall Persky. All titles are listed for identification purposes only. 

Opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Want to submit an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected]

33 Comments

  1. There are so many things wrong with this op-ed. Sajid Khan touches on some of the previously mentioned ones in his opposing editorial in San Jose Inside. But here are a few new points:

    – They criticize Persky for remaining silent about the Turner case, knowing full well that he cannot speak out because he is bound by judicial ethics. This is like criticizing a wheelchair-bound man for not running into a burning building to save the grandma on the second floor. This is unbelievably dishonest.
    – They tout their Mercury News endorsement, which acknowledges that Persky is a decent man, an able judge, and that the recall’s bias claims are weak. It is undoubtedly one of the weakest endorsements I have ever read.
    – They completely mischaracterize his comment to CBS news. He was asked if he would allow the current #MeToo movement to influence his decision making by making him more sensitive to the feelings of society. His response was “Well, let me say again based on the code of judicial ethics, I can’t really discuss the details of the case or my decision making,” Persky replied. “But I can say that generally, the answer is absolutely not.” He is not saying he is dismissing women’s concerns, as the recall writers so generously re-phrased it. He is saying that he would not be influenced by social movements, as his duty is to the law. Social movements are for politicians, and judges are not politicians. (Lambda Legal has a great article “The Problem with Judicial Elections”.)
    – They call it victim-blaming to mention that Emily Doe was highly intoxicated. Except that it’s not – it’s merely to explain that they were BOTH highly intoxicated, so that a coherent story about what happened is hard to determine. They always forget to mention that Turner’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit (even the jury was not given this information as the prosecutor successfully got it excluded). It doesn’t mean he didn’t do it or that he’s excused, but it raises the possibility that his crime may have been more due to negligence and stupidity rather than intent to do harm.

    So many misrepresentations, so many distortions. It really begs the question, why?

    • I agree with most of this, but the idea that the fact the victim and the defendant were both drunk in that it supposedly casts doubt on what occurred is obtuse and legally irrelevant as the jury, which heard all the evidence, determined beyond any readonable doubt what the facts were. C’mon, the guy was caught in the act! The more Persky supporters try to apologize for Turner, the more they are digging themselves into a hole. How tone deaf can some people be? Note that Khan did not go there at all.

  2. This columnist citing Cordell is deceptive as has been most of the actions of this campaign to recall this judge for following the probation recombination.
    She’s on the record against this recall effort:

    “One of Cordell’s main points is that the judge handed down Turner’s sentence at the probation department’s recommendation, which judges tend to follow.

    Cordell’s other main point is allowing a judge his or her own discretion within the law. Cordell said that while she personally would have imposed a harsher sentence on Turner, recalling a judge for “unpopular decisions,” threatens the willingness of all judges in the future to give “individual consideration” — meaning possibly more lenient and less thoughtful sentences — to defendants, many of whom will inevitably be low income and people of color.”

    http://www.ktvu.com/news/unlikely-cheerleader-supports-judge-persky-saying-his-recall-will-be-terrible-for-racial-justice

    Overall, what does 14 years in jail (at the taxpayers expense for everything including health care) accomplish? Rape is a crime that no rational person commits. Mr Turner will be a lifelong sex offender and felon. What additional deterrent would be accomplished by additional incarceration?

  3. With the vote less than 2 weeks away, those opposed to recalling Judge Persky are trying to change the conversation back to victim-blaming. With Persky staying silent as Emily Doe is once again blamed for crimes that were done to her without her consent, while she was fully unconscious, we should all be reminded that his man is not free of bias and has no place on the bench. Seriously, Santa Clara County is better than this. We are a community that values one another, that respects difference of opinions and strives to create a safe place for all residents. Elected officials blaming victims of crimes does the opposite of what we as a community stand for. Join me at the poles on June 5 and vote to Recall Judge Persky so our community can get back to caring for one another.

    • > We are a community that values one another,

      unless the other is a working class white male, Christian, or Trump voter

      > that respects difference of opinions

      except Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives or Democrats who are not progressives

      > and strives to create a safe place for all residents.

      except for people who have savings accounts, own real estate of rental property, or pay taxes. Definitely NOT a safe place for THESE residents.

      • Well that makes zero sense to my letter. Rhetoric is a very limited style of aurgument. Go read your state constitution and then we can go talk over coffee 👍

        • Ms. Skye,

          It seems there is some confusion here, in that case, it is wise to define terms.

          False Premise – A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument.

          Rhetoric – the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

          By using these nice figures of speech:

          “community that values one another”, “that respects difference of opinions”, etc you are the one engaging in rhetoric. What our resident logician is pointing out is that you are trying to sneak one by us using false premises. False premises are tricky because while the logic may work, our brain sometimes just takes the premises for granted.

          Now, there may very well be the right to recall public officials. One can debate the merits of that. If we are as a society to recall public officials, it should be for good reasons and not some witch hunt. That is our moral obligation to keep the integrity of our democracy.

          There have been repeated attempts to cast aspersions on Persky’s solely based on his gender, race, and class, that he may have employed someone that worked with a President of the United States, etc.. As this case has been digested by the in public sphere for the past few months, it is clear Persky followed the prevailing process in sentencing after the prosecutor reduced the charges. The anger on the recall side is due to the assailant’s gender, race, and class and their congruity with the judge’s. If they are white males and they went to Stanford and played a sport, they must be in cahoots. This is a race-, gender-, class-based witch hunt, pure and simple.

          Should we be mad that Brock Turner is out of jail after 3 months, sure, but this is not on Persky. While the mob can’t have Brock’s blood, they will settle for Persky’s. And that is an affront to the integrity of our democracy.

          You may win the vote, but you will not be right. Regardless of what the state constitution says.

  4. > By Michele Dauber

    Michele:

    Why do you suppose you HAVEN’T been fired by Stanford Law School?

    Aren’t Law Schools supposed to be training people to support and defend rule of law?

    How does organizing mobs to overthrow an independent judiciary support rule of law?

    You’re not just a lousy “law professor”, you’re an ANTI-law professor.

    What was Stanford thinking?

    • Why do you take it Personal? Go take a breathe read your state contituion 🇺🇸. It is our constitutional right to Redress our government elected officials. The opposition has to go low because the law is on the Pro Recalll side, The right side of history.

      • > The opposition has to go low because the law is on the Pro Recalll side,

        Did you hear this from Michelle?

        I wouldn’t trust it. She’s a fake law professor at a fake law school.

        Real professors at real law schools don’t advocate judicial nullification and mob rule.

        Stanford alums should probably start requesting refunds on their donations and tuition payments for the rapidly diminishing value of their dubious “diplomas”.

        Use the refunds to get an online diploma and a couple of Tesla’s. You’ll be ahead.

        • The comstitution has allowed recall since since 1912, if you want change change that. Ask your self why this has not been changed since 1912…

          • Lisa:

            Just because the constitution “allows” something doesn’t make it a good idea.

            The constitution allows people to vote for Democrats. That doesn’t mean that voting for Democrats is a good idea.

      • ___The constitutional rights of the State of California request the Recall Campaigners to be honest to the voters in the first place;

    • Well how is someone, like Dauber, who can’t even pass a bar exam be expected to lecture others on the law?

  5. By the way, is that Michele in the photo with the bullhorn?

    http://www.sanjoseinside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/765AE4DB-3B9ACA00-1-33873807_10105908127971014_7087145553972166656_o-772×350.jpg

    Is that one of the classes she teaches at Stanford?

    “Seminar in Advanced Legal Bullhorning, LS415”
    How many credits, and what’s the tuition per credit? $3,000? $5,000?

    Way to leapfrog Harvard Law School, Stanford weenies.

    Harvard is still stuck back in the sixties, merely handing out professorships to fake Injuns.

  6. Readers of these comments won’t be surprised to learn that Judge Persky’s campaign is being run by Brian Seitchik, Donald Triump’s 2016 Arizona state director. This hard right, anti-woman, victim-blaming rhetoric is the President’s stock in trade. The fact that Persky’s supporters are bringing it to public discourse is no accident, in my view. It makes the case for the recall that much more compelling.

  7. This is, again, more of the inflammatory rhetoric coming from the recall campaign. Judge Persky has never endorsed Trump or any of his policies. Seitchik does not work for Trump now. He is a campaign consultant – they work for whoever hires them. Persky’s campaign has taken the high-road and has not taken any anti-woman, victim-blaming stance. Some supporters say stupid things. Does Dauber want to be responsible for a recall supporter’s “guillotine the testicles of the judiciary” comment I saw a couple months ago? Dotty is fanning the flames, instead of trying to have a reasoned discourse.

    • I’m not with the recall campaign, and it’s hardly inflammatory to state the fact that Persky hired Donald Trump’s Arizona state director to run his campaign. To quote Harry Truman, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.”

      As to the assertion the Persky campaign has taken the “high road,” I refer you to the comments of Jim McManis, Persky’s biggest donor and his campaign lawyer. McManis says that the victim in the Turner case wasn’t actually attacked, and that she lied about writing her own victim impact statement. https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/lawyer-says-brock-turner-survivor-didnt-write-viral-letter.html

      That’s the very definition of the low road, and completely consistent with a campaign that is run by a Trump operative.

    • No one else that Persky asked would take this on.. Persky did zero due diligence ask Persky he said no one else would take this on.

  8. > Dotty is fanning the flames, instead of trying to have a reasoned discourse.

    There is nothing — NOTHING — in the progressives’ playbook about having a “reasoned discourse”.

    Where did you get THAT crazy idea?

    Haven’t you ever watched a progressive “roundtable” program? Four progressive wolves and one Republican deer in the headlights:

    “Why are Republicans always so racist?”

    “Do Republicans kick puppy dogs because they hate puppy dogs, or is it because they don’t have a stick?”

    “Does Trump really eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, or is it just cultural appropriation to fool black people?”

  9. I’m not with the recall campaign, and it’s hardly inflammatory to state the fact that Persky hired Donald Trump’s Arizona state director to run his campaign. To quote Harry Truman, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.”

    As to the assertion the Persky campaign has taken the “high road,” I refer you to the comments of Jim McManis, Persky’s biggest donor and his campaign lawyer. McManis says that the victim in the Turner case wasn’t actually attacked, and that she lied about writing her own victim impact statement. https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/lawyer-says-brock-turner-survivor-didnt-write-viral-letter.html

    That’s the very definition of the low road, and completely consistent with a campaign that is run by a Trump operative.

  10. I’m not with the recall campaign, and it’s hardly inflammatory to state the fact that Persky hired Donald Trump’s Arizona state director to run his campaign. To quote Harry Truman, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.”
    As to the assertion the Persky campaign has taken the “high road,” I refer you to the comments of Jim McManis, Persky’s biggest donor and his campaign lawyer. McManis says that the victim in the Turner case wasn’t actually attacked, and that she lied about writing her own victim impact statement. https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/lawyer-says-brock-turner-survivor-didnt-write-viral-letter.html
    That’s the very definition of the low road, and completely consistent with a campaign that is run by a Trump operative.

  11. > Judge Persky has never endorsed Trump or any of his policies.

    And even if he did, that would not be grounds for recalling him.

    The Michele Dauber/Stanford Law School driven recall campaign against Judge Persky REALLY has an intolerant, totalitarian ethos.

  12. > Michele Dauber

    I used to think, Michele, that law schools were about learning to use your words to solve disagreements in a civilized manner.

    Your “activism” and stature as the Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, suggests that things are different now.

    Stanford’s approach now seems to recognize that organizing street mobs and employing bullhorns are at least as good as citing Black’s Law Commentaries.

    Since we have a disagreement over the propriety of Judge Persky continuing as a judge, I hereby challenge you to a duel to settle the disagreement.

    I propose that the weapons for our duel be mobs and bullhorns, and the place for the duel shall be the front steps of Stanford Law School.

    You pick the time.

    You bring your mob and bullhorns, I’ll bring my mob and bullhorns, and we’ll settle this in a Stanford Law School way.

    And just let me say in advance, in case you’re tempted to pull any funny stuff to tilt the scales of justice in your favor, it would really be chickensh*t on your part if you arranged for the Stanford campus cops to interfere with my mob bringing their motorcycles on campus.

  13. Judge Persky has no connection to Trump or his policies, but Dotty thinks that if she keeps saying it people will believe it, hence her posting the same thing over and over. I doubt that LaDoris Cordell (civil rights activist, feminist), Ellen Kreitzberg (Santa Clara University law professor and director of the Center for Social Justice), Molly O’Neal (lead Santa Clara Public Defender, self-described feminist), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, or Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren would align themselves with someone they thought espoused Trump-like views. This so-called connection is a red herring.

  14. Readers can judge for themselves whether the fact that Judge Persky hired Trump’s Arizona state director to run his campaign is a “connection to Trump or his policies.” I think it clearly is. I can also see why the pro-Persky camp finds it necessary to deny it. It’s discrediting for most voters in Santa Clara County who voted against President Trump, and probably would cross the street to avoid his Arizona state director, not put him on the payroll.

    For more information, just Google “persky trump”.

  15. Slavery was the rule of law until the majority of people understood that it was actually a rule of injustice and racism per se. In the same way, the Santa Clara County Judicial elites have made a rule of law protecting the rights of rapists, pedophiles, and domestic abusers instead of protecting victims of these crimes. For this, Santa Clara County Women and larger community must undo this modern oppression of women and children. This modern oppression has made women and children the sexual slaves of privileged men who receive none or nonsense sentences for these horrible crimes. JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE DOES NOT EQUAL JUDICIAL CORRUPTION AND STUPIDITY!

    The rule of law has to be outlawed when it is against community and society’s values and public policy. Medical doctors only need a single mistake that causes significant harm to a patient for a potential malpractice lawsuit. How many lives a judge has to destroy in order to be incompetent? The Santa Clara County BAR, Commission for Judicial Performance, and others supporting Persky are also corrupted institutions and persons. The members of these institutions are the ones that have contributed to Persky’s No recall. This appears to be an ethical issue. If Persky is not recalled, these financial contributors to Perky’s will be trying their cases in his very court room. Thus, it is an underwater business covered under “JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE” TO PRACTICE CORRUPTION!

    Zoe Lofgren, you gave a deaf ear to the case of a local law enforcement who engaged in watching child porn and was protected by local police department, judges, and other local officials. Yet, here you are supporting the No recall. I personally reported this case to you. This law enforcement has continued his criminal activity; most recent IRS fraud. Supervising judge Julia A. Emede protected this active pedophile that worked directly for her and she also adored him. THE SANTA CLARA COUNTY IS THE HOME OF THE MOST CORRUPTED JUDGES AND OTHER PUBLIC AND POLITICAL OFFICIALS INCLUDING YOU ZOE LOFGREN. Shame on you!

    On June 5, 2018 Vote Yes to recall Aaron Persky!

    PROTECT WOMEN AND CHILDREN; VOTE YES!

    Shalom,

    Ana Hermosillo
    Professional Mental Health Provider
    QPR Suicide Prevention Trained Clergy
    Feminist Christian Activist

    • > The rule of law has to be outlawed . . . .

      YOU GO, GIRL!

      ‘We don’t need no stinken’ rule of law.”

      Jesus told you this, right?

      • Didn’t they teach you anything in school?

        The law, reason, and science are social constructs designed by men to maintain the patriarchy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *