Has Judge Persky shown bias before? - Recall Judge Aaron Persky

Has Judge Persky shown bias before?

A:

Sadly, Judge Perksy's sentencing of Brock Turner was consistent with other cases in which he appeared to favor athletes accused of violence against women.

For example, in 2015, Judge Persky allowed a college football player, Ikaika Gunderson, who was convicted of felony domestic violence for severely beating his ex-girlfriend, to leave the state to play for the University of Hawaii without notifying the state of Hawaii. Notification and supervision in such cases is required by state and federal law. This athlete later moved to Washington, again without any notice or supervision, where he was again arrested for domestic violence.

Retired Judge LaDoris Cordell told Buzzfeed News that “There are so many problems with how this case was handled that I’m not even sure where to start . . . The system is set up so that if someone has admitted a violent offense and is now a convicted felon, they should be closely monitored,” Cordell said. “You don’t just cross your fingers and hope everything is going to be fine.”

Similarly, in the 2016 case of Keenan Smith, a star college football player at the College of San Mateo who was convicted of domestic violence and of knocking a Good Samaritan unconscious and threatening another bystander, Judge Persky imposed a sentence that was tailored to Smith’s football game schedule. Even then, Smith failed to comply with the conditions of his probation and sentence and Judge Persky failed to hold him accountable. It was not until the Recall Campaign brought forward information about the case that another judge, Judge Diane Northway, heard the matter and Smith was given consequences. Assistant District Attorney Brian Welch told the Mercury News that “the court agreed that enough was enough” and Smith was resentenced to spend weekends in jail.

In another case involving collegiate athletes, in 2011, Judge Persky presided over a civil trial following the alleged gang rape of an unconscious 17-year-old victim by members of a college baseball team. According to the Guardian, Persky allowed the jury to consider photographs of the victim taken at a party nearly a year after the assault in order to prove that the victim was not really traumatized. Her lawyers called the impact of the photos “prejudicial” and questioned other rulings by Persky that favored the defendants. 

Judge Persky has exhibited bias in other domestic violence cases. On the same day that Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner, he also sentenced Cisco Systems engineer Tony Chiang to ‘weekend’ jail time for felony aggravated battery against his fiancé.

As these cases show, Judge Persky has a longstanding pattern of bias in favor of privileged defendants. Less privileged defendants often do not receive the same level of solicitude from him. For instance, Judge Persky approved a sentence of 3 years in prison for a low-income Latino defendant charged with very similar crimes to Brock Turner. Like Turner he had no serious criminal history. Unlike Turner, the Latino defendant was extremely remorseful, apologized, admitted it was wrong, and pleaded guilty.

Compared with other judges in Santa Clara County, Judge Persky’s sentences stand out as very lenient. In 2015, Judge Persky sentenced white child pornography defendant Robert Chain to only 4 days in jail and offered to reduce his felony conviction to a misdemeanor after only one year of probation. As this analysis shows, every other judge in Santa Clara County sentenced defendants to 6 months for this crime and no other judge offered to reduce the conviction for this serious child sex offense to a misdemeanor.