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Campaign to remove judge in Stanford rape case gains steam


    This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who drew criticism for sentencing former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The swimmer’s father, Dan Turner, ignited more outrage by writing in a letter to the judge that his son already has paid a steep price for “20 minutes of action.” Dan Turner wrote that his son’s conviction on three felony sexual assault charges has shattered the 20-year-old, who has lost his appetite. The letter was made public over the weekend by a Stanford law professor who wants Persky removed from office because of the sentence.

SAN FRANCISCO >> A fledgling campaign to recall the judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman gained momentum as three prominent political consultants joined the effort.

The Recall Judge Aaron Persky campaign on Friday said media consultant Joe Trippi, campaign strategist John Shallman and pollster Paul Maslin would help secure the signatures and votes required to remove the Santa Clara County jurist from the bench next year.

Trippi has worked for a number of Democratic presidential candidates, while Maslin’s clients include Gov. Jerry Brown and members of Congress. Shallman has worked for the president of the California Senate, who spearheaded passage of a law requiring colleges and universities to apply a “yes means yes” standard in sexual misconduct cases.

Persky was re-elected in an unopposed election Tuesday, five days after sentencing Brock Turner, 20, to six months in jail and three years’ probation. The punishment for the Dayton, Ohio, native ignited intense outcry as too lenient.

Prosecutors had argued for Turner to spend six years in prison for three felony convictions that could have sent him away for 14 years.

The judge said in court last week that he followed a recommendation from the county’s probation department and cited Turner’s clean criminal record and the effect the conviction will have on his life.

“I have daughters in college myself, and I find it deeply disturbing that a judge like Persky could let a campus predator like Turner off with barely a slap on the wrist,” Shallman said. “Justice is supposed to be blind —not stupid.”

A request to interview the judge wasn’t returned Friday. A court spokesman has said Persky is barred from commenting because Turner is appealing his convictions of felony assault and attempted rape.

Meanwhile, a group of California lawmakers joined women’s rights advocates in urging the California agency that investigates complaints of judicial misconduct to take action against Persky.

Eleven Democratic state lawmakers asked the Commission on Judicial Performance to investigate and discipline the judge, alleging he may have engaged in misconduct in sentencing Turner.

The judge’s decision “confirms what women already knew: That rape culture blames us for being vulnerable when crimes are committed against us, but treats the same factors — drinking, in particular — as reasons to be exceedingly lenient with rapists,” Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton said.

The lawmakers also want District Attorney Jeff Rosen to ask an appeals court to overturn the sentence. But prosecutors have said they don’t think Persky’s decision can be appealed because it was “authorized by law and was made by applying the correct standards.”

Rosen also has said the judge should not lose his job because of the ruling.

Women’s group UltraViolet submitted more than 800,000 signatures to the commission’s San Francisco offices Friday in a symbolic effort for Persky’s removal. The group also has filed a formal misconduct complaint.

The commission meets every six to eight weeks and usually decides whether to open an investigation within 60 days of receiving a complaint, agency attorney Victoria Henley said.

To trigger a recall election, campaign organizers need to collect signatures from 58,634 registered Santa Clara County voters. A majority vote would be required to remove the judge.

“His statements during the sentencing show that he does not understand sexual violence. He does not understand violence against women,” said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who launched the recall campaign. “And so we are going to recall him, and we’re going to replace him with someone who does.”

Lawyers who have appeared in Persky’s court have called him a fair and respected judge. He has no record of judicial discipline and previously worked as a prosecutor responsible for keeping sexual predators locked up.

Several prospective jurors who opposed Persky’s decision refused to serve on a jury this week in an unrelated case he’s handling. They were dismissed after reporting their complaints.

Online records show Turner is expected to be released from jail after three months. County jail inmates serve 50 percent of their sentences if they keep a clean disciplinary record. Turner is being segregated from the general jail population, which is standard for high-profile inmates who could be targets.

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  • Both perp and victim were bombed out of their minds when the incident occurred. The victim was so drunk, she was passed out and had no recollection of what occurred. The perp’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for California. Although he was not passed out, it is hard to believe that anyone with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit would be capable of having an erection and be capable of raping someone. The two grad students who came upon the assault, reported seeing him on top of the victim and thrusting his body into her. That does not make it rape. Sexual assault, but not rape. The perp got up and ran off when the grad students approached. If he was truly trying to rape the woman, his trousers and underwear would have been down around his knees or his penis would have been protruding through the fly in his trousers. It would be difficult for a guy to runoff with his trousers down around his ankles, but I supposed a guy could run off with a dangling penis. The big question then becomes how was he dressed and where was his penis when he was tackled and held until police arrived. This goes to intent. Such crucial information has not been reported in the media. Probing minds should want to know.

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