Judge in Stanford Sexual Assault Case Cleared of Misconduct

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.

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > 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 ruling concludes a months-long investigation of past cases and review of thousands of complaints about Persky.

    It’s over, Jennifer.

    Time to call off the gender vigilantes.

    Michele Dauber and Shaunna Thomas need to work on their own gender bias issues.

  2. Do I hear any whining and crying from these same folks over the record release of thousand convicted felons being pardoned and released by Barack Hussein Obama and governor “moonbeam” Jerry Brown as a free gift to the criminal class of murders, rapist, drug runners and dopers? Tic,tic, tic,…………………………………………………………….

    Of course not as they and their friends will be voting Democrat in the next election.

  3. Proposition 57 passed in Santa Clara county by a huge margin (70.4% vs. 29.6%) and I’m betting the SJI staff voted overwhelmingly “NO”, right?

    Just kiddin…

    • I was referring to the fact that Prop 57 reclassifies the “rape by intoxication” to a non-violent crime and I’ll bet you ANYTHING that the entire editorial of the SJI portal has voted “YES” on prop 57.

      From Ballotpedia:

      Proposition 57 will allow criminals convicted of RAPE, LEWD ACTS AGAINST A CHILD, GANG GUN CRIMES and HUMAN TRAFFICKING to be released early from prison. That’s why Proposition 57 is OPPOSED by California Law Enforcement — District Attorneys, Sheriffs, Police, Courtroom Prosecutors, Crime Victims and local community leaders. Here are the facts: The authors of Proposition 57 claim it only applies to “non-violent” crimes, but their poorly drafted measure deems the following crimes “non-violent” and makes the perpetrators eligible for EARLY PAROLE and RELEASE into local communities:

      Rape by intoxication
      Rape of an unconscious person
      Human Trafficking involving sex act with minors
      Drive-by shooting
      Assault with a deadly weapon
      Hostage taking
      Attempting to explode a bomb at a hospital or school
      Domestic violence involving trauma
      Supplying a firearm to a gang member
      Hate crime causing physical injury
      Failing to register as a sex offender
      Discharging a firearm on school grounds
      Lewd acts against a child 14 or 15
      False imprisonment of an elder through violence

  4. The judge did his job. And continues to do so admirably. He is principled.
    Recall the self-interested, family friend, professor who has never practised law. Where was she when the other alleged errors by the judge happened?
    The recall is a waste of public money. And has a chilling effect on unpopular, but just decisions from ethical judges.
    Why not recall the President elect who believes that it is acceptable, even laudable, to sexually assault women. Remember his statement. The defendant in the Palo Alto case expressed remorse.

    • > Remember his statement.

      No. Remind me.

      FYI, this is a test to see if you can FACTUALLY recount what happened, completely, accurately, and in context.

      Then, we’ll validate the accuracy of your claim that the President elect “believes it is … laudable… to sexually assault women” and proceed to “compare and contrast” his behavior with the behavior of other “public figures.”

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