BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
With days to go before the June 5 recall vote, embattled Judge Aaron Persky won support yesterday (May 23) from three Silicon Valley lawmakers: U.S. Congresswomen Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian.
In a statement, Eshoo and Lofgren said, “Recalling a judge sounds an alarm for all judges. It announces, ‘Make a call that is unpopular and we’re coming for you.’”
Eshoo condemned the campaign to unseat him as part of a broader national attack on democratic institutions.
“There’s one branch, in my view, one branch of government that’s actually working. It’s not the executive and it’s not the legislative,” Eshoo told the Post. “I’m very, very worried about the extraordinary stress test that our democratic institutions are being subjected to.”
Simitian told the Post yesterday that he had expressed his opinion about the recall to constituents when asked, but that no reporter had ever asked him for his stance.
“I’m not participating in the campaign on either side,” he said. “I thought the sentence was too short, but I do not support the recall.”
Eshoo said she empathized with those who were outraged by the six-month county jail sentence that Persky gave Stanford sex assailant Brock Turner, but urged Santa Clara County voters to put emotion aside and examine the facts.
While the sentence was light, it followed the law, she said.
“We’re a nation of laws. The independence of the judiciary is essential. Yes, there are mechanisms to remove corrupt individuals and incompetent individuals, but I go a step higher on the ladder, given what’s taken place and that the law has been changed,” she said.
Backlash led to law change
The congresswoman of 26 years said she worried that voters aren’t aware that the backlash against Turner’s sentence had already led to a mandatory state prison sentence for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person in California, which means that if Turner were convicted today, he’d be sent to prison.
After poring over the rules of the court and the state Commission on Judicial Performance’s 2016 finding of no misconduct or evidence of bias by Persky, Eshoo said she felt “very strongly” against the recall.
The judicial commission’s investigation, which Eshoo said she had read more than once, was “quite extensive, highly substantive and underwent, obviously, a great deal of examination,” Eshoo said.
In response to the announcement from Eshoo and Lofgren, recall leader Michele Dauber pointed to the wide support her campaign has received from other public figures, including Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who did not return a request for comment.
“The recall campaign is backed by a broad coalition of supporters including numerous national and local women’s rights organizations such as the Feminist Majority and the National Organization for Women and such champions for women as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Anita Hill and Dolores Huerta,” Dauber said in an email to the Post. “That’s because Judge Persky and his campaign have consistently shown that he doesn’t understand sexual assault.”
Dauber cited recent comments by Persky’s attorney, Jim McManis, of the San Jose law firm McManis Faulkner, a major funder of Persky’s campaign.
McManis was quoted yesterday in Vogue Magazine saying that Turner’s victim, known in the media only as Emily Doe, “was not attacked” and that she “had been drinking before she arrived at the fraternity party.”
“That is why women in this county support the recall by more than 2:1,” Dauber said.
Emily Doe had a ghostwriter?
McManis also told Vogue that he thought Doe’s victim impact statement, which attracted international interest in the case, had been “written by a professional battered women’s advocate from the YWCA,” but said he hadn’t verified the claim.
In an interview with the Post, McManis dismissed the Vogue story as “a puff piece, an homage to Michele Dauber” that “made me look like some kind of a jerk who didn’t see any problem with attacking women who had too much to drink.”
McManis said a probation department employee had questioned whether the victim had written the statement because it called for Turner to go to prison, contradicting her initial statement to the probation officer.
“I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars,” Doe’s statement read. “The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women.”
McManis added that he believed Doe had passed out drunk during a consensual sexual encounter, and that “the question was whether or not that was apparent to him.”
“The jury really had no choice but to find him guilty because if, in fact, she was passed out, intoxicated, unable to give any kind of consent, that’s a violation,” McManis said.
“This is not something where he was some kind of predator who was lurking around a Dumpster and jumped her when she was going home.”
According to testimony at Turner’s trial, Doe was unconscious when two graduate students found Turner on top of her. She woke up at the hospital.
McManis said he had lost both of the cases he had personally tried in Persky’s courtroom, but that he found him to be a knowledgeable and thoughtful judge.
“I thought he was one of the best judges I’ve ever seen,” McManis said. “It’s like a Greek tragedy.”