Judge Aaron Persky should be fired

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

Judge Aaron Persky ought to be fired for sentencing former Stanford swimming star Brock Turner to six months in jail for raping a semiconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus.

A jury of 12 Santa Clara County residents voted unanimously to convict Turner of three felony charges for which the maximum sentence could have been 14 years in state prison.

The district attorney asked for six years. The minimum mandatory sentence is two years, which Persky ignored too. If Persky disagreed with the verdict, he had the ability to set it aside and order a new trial.

But instead the judge decided to disregard the seriousness of the verdict and give Turner a laughable sentence in the county jail.

With good behavior, Turner will be out in three months.

Drunkenness an excuse?

The judge’s reasoning demonstrates why he should no longer be on the bench.



First, he pointed out that both Turner and the victim were intoxicated. So what? She’s no less of a victim because she was drunk. And drunkenness isn’t a mitigating factor for the sentencing of defendants under California law.

We don’t give drunken drivers lighter sentences when they kill people because they were drinking. The fact that this judge would reduce a sentence in part because Turner was drunk shows an ignorance or disregard of the law.

This judge shouldn’t be deciding other cases if he thinks like that.

The judge said he was persuaded by Turner’s “genuine feelings of remorse.” Well, of course, Turner’s sorry he got caught. Remember he tried to flee after two bystanders rescued her. The bystanders had to pin him to the ground until the police arrived. Turner didn’t feel sorry then.

And an experienced judge should know that every defendant says they’re sorry if they think it will get them a lighter sentence.

Misplaced sympathy

The judge also said he took into consideration how imprisonment would affect Turner’s life. I’ve got two issues with that.

First, the judge should take into consideration how this rape will affect the victim’s life. She will have a lifetime of ongoing trauma. “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said at Turner’s sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Second, Turner, previously an all-American high school swimmer from Dayton, Ohio, may have had a promising future before this rape, but he was the one who decided to throw his future away.

“If a first-time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?” the victim said at sentencing. “The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”

And it appears the judge was persuaded by Turner’s announcement that he plans to educate college students about the effects of “excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.”

What’s Turner going to tell these kids? Don’t get caught like I did?

Remember, he claims she consented to being digitally penetrated behind that dumpster yet he tried to run off when he was caught.



If she consented, why did he run? How is he going to work that into his educational presentation?

Wrong message

At a time when society is trying to eliminate sexual misconduct on college campuses, this verdict sends the wrong message. It’s time for Persky to go.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done about a bad judge. Firing a judge is as difficult and unlikely as firing a unionized school teacher or a city government employee. Automatically re-elected Persky’s term is up this year, but since nobody signed up to run against him, he’s not even on the ballot.

So he automatically gets another six years on the bench. California’s system of selecting and retaining judges stinks, but that’s the subject of another column.

Another way to respond to this outrageous sentence is for residents to file written complaints against Persky with the California Commission on Judicial Performance, the agency that investigates judges for ethical violations.

But I wouldn’t expect much. It dismisses nearly 90% of the public complaints it receives and imposes discipline much less often than similar agencies in Arizona, Texas and New York, according to a report by Court Reform LLC, an advocacy group.

DA can boycott Persky

There is one more way to deal with Persky. District Attorney Jeff Rosen — who railed against the sentence, saying it doesn’t fit the crime — can order his prosecutors to boycott Persky by simply not bringing cases to his court.

Such a boycott, called a peremptory challenge, is allowed under the Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6. It’s been done before. Rosen’s predecessor, Dolores Carr, had her attorneys boycott a judge who let a child molester walk in 2010.

A boycott by Rosen would effectively end Persky’s career in the criminal courts. Unfortunately he would still be allowed to hear civil cases. Still, such an action by Rosen would send a strong message to other judges about the seriousness of rape.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.