Voices - Recall Judge Aaron Persky


 Leaders speak out about Judge Persky, and the need to take violence against women seriously.

Missoula.jpg"Judge Persky was troubled less by the horrific trauma Brock Turner inflicted on the woman he assaulted than by the impact prison might have on Turner. The soft sentence Persky issued to Turner served as yet another reminder to sexual predators across the land that women are fair game and can be preyed upon with impunity. Even worse, perhaps, it reinforced the perception by millions of well-meaning, law-abiding Americans that sexual assault is no big deal. Removing Judge Persky from the bench will send a powerful message to help debunk this harmful misconception. I enthusiastically support the campaign to recall him."

— Jon Krakauer, Author of "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town"


"We support efforts to remove him from office. He wrongly showed greater mercy for Turner than for the victim of the serious felonies the jury found Turner committed, and in doing so sent a terrible message about the legal consequences of sexual assault committed by a privileged young person attending an elite school, even when caught in the act."

— Editorial from The Palo Alto Weekly

Amy Ziering

"Judge Persky gave Brock Turner an incomprehensibly lenient sentence for a thrice convicted violent felon. Doing so harmed not only the survivor in this case, but all survivors by trivializing the harm they’ve suffered as a result of sexual assault. It also sent a message to predators that victims are fair game and our schools are veritable hunting grounds. What’s more, Persky failed to do the one thing of paramount import that our judges are elected to do: protect citizens from further and future harm by keeping violent felons off our streets. Campus rape is a serious crime, and athletes don’t deserve hall passes when it comes to felonies. Support the recall of Judge Persky. Our judges need to protect citizens, not rapists."

— Amy Ziering, Producer of the Hunting Ground

"And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied. And that is why we will continue to speak out."

Excerpt from An Open Letter to a Courageous Young Woman, written by: Vice President Joe Biden

 "Six months for someone who viciously attacked a woman, especially after she was so brave to come forward, is outrageous."

— Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

“Justice is supposed to be blind, but in this case I think it was peeking. I can’t imagine a more dangerous predator than someone who would take advantage of someone in that situation. The judge made a mistake."

— Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

"[Sen. Gillibrand] doesn’t think justice was served in this case and she thinks that such a short sentence sends the wrong message."

— Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

 “Mr. Speaker, I was a prosecutor and a criminal court judge in Texas for over 30 years. I met a lot of rape victims and learned how these attacks sometimes devastate their lives. This judge got it wrong,” Poe said. “There’s an archaic philosophy in some courts that sin ain’t sin as long as good folk do it. In this case, the court and the defendant’s father wanted a pass for the rapist because he was a big-shot swimmer. The judge should be removed. The rapist should do more time for the dastardly deed that he did that night. This arrogant defendant has appealed the sentence. I hope the appeals court does grant the appeal and make it right and overturn the pathetic sentence and give him the punishment he deserves.”

 — Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) 

"Today, Brock Turner is out of prison. He will return to his life, but the life of his victim may never be the same. The criminal has given her a life sentence of mental pain, anguish, and turmoil. Rape is never the fault of the victim. Too often the focus is on defending, protecting, and excusing sex offenders like Brock Turner. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in this case. As a former Judge, I know that the system does not work if those who have the privilege of sitting on the bench fail to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Judge Persky should be recalled to ensure that justice is not denied for one more victim. There should be no more Brock Turners who escape what they deserve. The punishment for a convicted rapist should be longer than a summer break from college."

— Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)

— Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th District)

“I think he should resign... it's a decision for the voters of Santa Clara County to make.”

— Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA 14th District)

"The sentencing of six months is a very sad and pathetic display of justice. In fact, the sentence is far from serving justice. Judge Persky said a longer prison sentence would have a "severe impact" on Turner. Persky could not be more wrong, and instead, he has assured other rapists and offenders that they too can get away with assault, especially if they have privileged backgrounds."

— Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA 17th District)

— Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California

“When someone is facing a 14-year (maximum sentence), which is what I believe was the exposure in this case, there has got to be extraordinarily mitigating facts to reduce it down to what I believe ended up being six months,” Harris told reporters. “And I don’t know if the facts actually merit that kind of mitigation.”

Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California

 "We need more judges and elected leaders who are committed to both preventing and deterring rape and sexual assault, whether by enacting more tough laws in legislatures or through fierce penalties in the judicial system through the courts. For these reasons and many more, I'm pleased to add my name to the growing coalition of those who support the recall and ouster of failed Judge Persky. He's unworthy of the robe her wears and the bench he sits on."

— Kevin de León, CA President pro Tempore of State Senate - District 24

 "This has to be reviewed in terms of performance of the judge" Beall said. "I think it calls into question his decision-making process."

Jim Beall, CA State Senate - District 15

— Mike Gatto, CA Assembly - District 43

 "I support the campaign to recall Judge Persky because our victims deserve better. This is the best way for voters to exercise their voting power, hold our judges accountable, and ensure that no future perpetrator gets off the hook for such a heinous crime.”

— Fiona Ma, CA Board of Equalization Chairwoman - District 2

 "I support the effort to recall Judge Persky from office and to replace him with judge who will treat all sexual assault seriously, no matter who commits this crime or where it takes place."

— Ken Dauber, Palo Alto Unified School District Board Member

"June 9, 2016

Anthony P. Capozzi, Esq. Chairperson, California Commission on Judicial Performance

Dear Mr. Capozzi,

We, the undersigned Members of the Legislature, urge you to investigate and take action against Judge Aaron Persky because of his misconduct in the recent Santa Clara Superior Court case of People of the State of California v. Brock Turner that shows bias and undermines public faith in the judicial system.

Judge Persky appears to have engaged in prejudicial misconduct. To show prejudicial misconduct, it must be shown that the judge - whether acting in good faith or not - engages in conduct that adversely would affect the esteem in which the judiciary is held by members of the public who become aware of the circumstances of the conduct. (Adams v. Commission of Judicial Performance (1995) 10Cal.4th 886.) Although Turner could have been sentenced to many years in state prison, and was required by law to be sentenced to a prison term (except under extraordinary circumstances), the court granted him probation and a mere six month jail term. This preferential treatment is perceived by the public to be based upon the fact that Turner is an upper middle class, white student-athlete who was privileged enough to earn both admission and an athletic scholarship to a highly selective university, just as Judge Persky did himself.

Judge Persky's ruling could also be considered "improper misconduct" so that an objective observer aware of the circumstances would deem it to adversely affect the reputation of the judiciary. Judge Persky's bias, whether intentional or inadvertent, affects the esteem of the judiciary in the eyes of the public, which undermines public confidence in the integrity and the independence of the judicial system. Judicial rulings like Judge Persky's damage our justice system in at least two ways: 1) They discourage the reporting of these devastating crimes by reinforcing the fear that justice will not be served; and 2)They demonstrate that there are two systems of justice: one for people of privilege such as elite athletes, and one for everyone else. Because a judge should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, we urge the Commission to take action against Judge Persky."

— Susan Talamantes Eggman, Assemblymember 13th District & Chair, CA LGBT Caucus; Cristina Garcia, Assemblymember 58th District & Vice Chair, CA Legislative Women's Caucus; Senator Jim Baell, SenateDistict 15; Senator BobWieckowskz, Senate District 10; Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke, Assembly District 62; Assemblymember Mike Gatto, Assembly District 43; Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown, Assembly District 47; Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber, Assembly District 79; Assemblymember Nora Campos, Assembly District 27; Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, Assembly District 64; Assemblymember Patty Lopez; Assembly District 39; Assemblymember Susan A. Bonilla, Assembly District 14; Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Assembly District 53 

"But Judge Aaron Persky must take the lion's share of the blame. To sentence Turner to only six months in jail and then probation, Persky had to cite "extraordinary circumstances" that make this case much less worthy of condemnation than others. He clearly sympathized not with the victim but with the defendant, a Stanford athlete. That's not acceptable."

— Mark Lemley, William H. Neukom Professor at Stanford Law School

"The road to reform that protects the rights of all of those caught up in the criminal justice system – men and women, white and nonwhite, poor and privileged – has to be a willingness to root out bias wherever it exists. Turning aside from a commitment to fair enforcement of the law does not make sense. What is needed is a careful attention to where it goes astray and transparency in the process. In this, Persky failed and should be recalled. We need to learn from this, and be willing to play our part through enforcing accountability through democratic processes. We should recall Judge Persky and should replace him with a judge who is not biased."

— David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University

"As a Judge who is entrusted to administer justice and uphold the rule of law, you have irrevocably violated the public trust by handing down a sentence that is not commensurate with the seriousness of the violent, life-altering, and heinous crimes committed in this case. As a result of the clear bias you hold against sexual assault victims, your outright gender discrimination, and your failure to fairly apply the law, we the undersigned support your removal from office."

Excerpt from NOW's Open Letter to Judge Aaron Persky, signed by: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; Sonia Ossorio, President, NOW New York; Jerilyn Stapleton, President, California NOW

 "It sends the wrong message: that if you are from a privileged background, if you are a star athlete, and if you commit your crime on a college campus, then the law does not apply to you."

—  Ro Khanna, Member of Congress (CA-17)


"Judge Persky’s bad behavior goes beyond one grossly wrongheaded sentence, and embodies an unacceptable pattern of 'questionable judgment in cases involving violence toward women.'"

— Andrew McLaughlin, Partner/Co-founder: Higher Ground Labs


"Brock Turner's six-month jail term for sexual assault of an intoxicated, unconscious woman on the Stanford campus last year is a setback for the movement to take campus rape seriously."

— Excerpt from Mercury News Editorial

"The Times’ editorial board hasn’t questioned whether the crime was horrific or the sentence was too lenient; it was, and it is. Probation should be granted only if it serves the best interests of justice, and it is extremely hard to conclude that the best interests of justice were served by this ruling. On this point, Dauber’s team and The Times’ editorial board strongly agree."

— Excerpt from The Los Angeles Times

— Lisa Bloom, American Civil Rights Attorney

 “I would say it’s a case of privilege,” Banks said. “It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle. ‘He’s lived such a good life and has never experienced anything serious in his life that would prepare him for prison. He was sheltered so much he wouldn’t be able to survive prison.’ What about the kid who has nothing? He struggles to eat, struggles to get a fair education? What about the kid who has no choice who he is born to and has drug-addicted parents or a nonparent household? Where is the consideration for them when they commit a crime?”

— Brian Banks, Wrongly Convicted of Rape as a Teen

— Sharon Stone, Actress

— Lena Dunham and the Cast of Girls

— Anna Paquin, Actress



“I just couldn’t believe it. It’s like if you killed someone and got caught red-handed and just because you went to a nice school, and you were a good swimmer, you somehow get a lesser sentence. That just doesn’t make any sense.”

— Channing Tatum, Actor