Outrage led to change in at least one election Tuesday night when Californians voted to recall a judge whom many viewed as being too lenient in a high-profile sexual assault and attempted rape case.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gained national prominence after sentencing Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner in 2016 to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party in 2015. He was 19 at the time.
Some of the backlash against Persky, a judge for 15 years, also stemmed from Turner’s being sentenced to jail rather than prison. The judge cited the “severe impact” that prison would have on the athlete.
Turner, who denied assaulting the 22-year-old woman, was eventually released from jail after three months for good behavior.
Prosecutors had sought a 6-year sentence, though the crimes were punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Judgment day came for Persky, 56, Tuesday night, as part of the statewide primaries, when voters in Santa Clara County voted to remove Persky from the bench.
With 69 percent of precincts reporting by Wednesday morning, the vote to recall Persky had 59.54 percent, while the “no” votes stood at 40.46 percent.
The recall effort has dogged Persky since he handed down the sentence in June 2016 after a jury convicted Turner of three felonies.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who had led the charge against Persky, told The Associated Press that the successful recall will send a message nationally that the #MeToo movement is here to stay.
“The broader message of this victory is that violence against women is now a voting issue,” Dauber said.
Dauber also posted a tweet about the victory early Wednesday morning, touting the recall movement’s efforts in sustaining public interest over the past two years.
Two years ago I was on CNN and @JeffreyToobin said that while he thought Persky deserved to be recalled, the effort “would fail” because we would never be able to sustain voter interest and attention. But nevertheless, we persisted. Perhaps Jeff should invite me back now #metoo, pic.twitter.com/BfJlzY3odH
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 6, 2018
Dauber’s effort, which organized behind the Recall Persky Campaign, raised more than $1 million in donations, according to ABC San Francisco station KGO-TV.
The judge’s defenders raised more than $850,000, which included donated services, KGO reported
Persky told The Associated Press in May that he has no regrets about his handling of the case, which he has said followed existing legal guidelines.
“The problem with this recall is it will pressure judges to follow the rule of public opinion as opposed to the rule of law,” Persky said.
Persky held his first public news conference days before the AP interview and declined to speak about the details of the Turner case because it was going through the appeal process.
During the May 8 news conference, he said that the threat of a recall “is a subtle and insidious, silent corrupting force … that will enter the minds of judges as they contemplate difficult decisions.”
Persky has not released a public statement in the wake of the recall. Back in May, when asked what he would do if recalled, Persky said he would go on to do something productive.