BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
After a two-year crusade to avenge a six-month county jail sentence seen as too lenient for sexual assault, the so-called “Brock Turner judge,” Aaron Persky, was recalled from the Santa Clara County bench yesterday (June 5).
With 100% of the precincts reporting, the recall was supported by 60% of the 176,058 voters whose ballots have been counted as of today (June 6) at 12:30 p.m.
As for who should replace him, voters chose Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson over San Jose attorney Angela Storey by a ratio of 69.1% to 30.9%. Retired Palo Alto Judge LaDoris Cordell, who campaigned in support of Persky, said she would continue to fight for an independent judiciary by working to make it more difficult to recall judges.
“We did everything we could possibly do to fight the most dishonest campaign I had ever encountered. It was dishonest about who Aaron Persky was on the bench, and dishonest about his record,” Cordell told the Post. “People were basically ill-informed about him and also about how the court system, and particularly the criminal justice system, works.”
Cordell lamented that, for the first time in history, a California judge had been recalled after doing “nothing wrong” and said she “absolutely believes history will prove us right.”
Now, she wants to change the law to prevent judicial recalls without documented misconduct, bias, incompetence or illegal behavior. She said she might want to see the law require two-thirds of the vote for a judicial recall, rather than a simple majority of 50%.
She said the recall campaign benefited from an 18-month head start because until the measure qualified for the ballot in January, there was nothing for Persky to campaign against.
Cordell also disparaged recall leader Michele Dauber as “a misguided, very troubled person who was able to galvanize this and remove a good, decent judge.”
“Right now, anyone can just pick on a judge,” Cordell said. “If you gather the signatures and raise the money, you can do it. That’s not how this should work.”
The recall campaign raised $1.2 million to unseat Persky. The anti-recall side raised $1 million, including $371,448.62 in legal services from the San Jose law firm McManis Faulkner. Another $1.1 million in Santa Clara County taxpayer funds were used to put the measure on the ballot.
She added that she saw Persky yesterday evening and that he would “be OK.”
“As a lawyer, he was a fighter for the poor and underserved and he’ll continue to do good work,” Cordell said. “I am heartened by the thousands of people who voted against the recall because they got it, but this doesn’t end here.”
Dauber didn’t return a call seeking comment late last night.
However, Dauber told the Washington Post, “Tonight many, many voters voted against the culture of impunity for high-status perpetrators of sexual assault or domestic violence … This election expresses clearly that sexual assault, sexual violence is serious and it has to be taken seriously by elected officials. It’s a historical moment when women across all sectors of society are standing up saying enough is enough.”
Voters casting their ballots at the Lytton Gardens Senior Community in downtown Palo Alto were almost evenly split on the recall.
Alyson Davies said she voted for the recall, but supported Storey because she had a “better argument for why she was running.”
“I feel like for such a high-profile case, for him to do such a lenient sentence, I feel like, what is he doing for the less high-profile cases? I just don’t trust his judgment, and I prefer to have someone else for the next four years,” Davies told the Post.
The furor against Persky started in 2016, when he gave Turner six months in county jail for digitally penetrating a 23-year-old woman while she was passed out drunk outside a fraternity party at Stanford. Turner was a 19-year-old freshman at the time of the crime.
After the sentence, the recall campaign found six other cases that they say show a pattern of bias in favor of wealthy, white college athletes accused of sex crimes and domestic violence. Of the four criminal cases that the recall campaign said fit that profile, the only white defendant was a plumber and the only college athlete was a black College of San Mateo football player.
The state Commission on Judicial Performance found no pattern of bias or misconduct by Persky.
Kim Spitler, a Mountain View tax accountan who worked as a precinct inspector yesterday, said she voted for the recall, and for Storey as the successor. “I agree that judges should feel independent, but I don’t think there was any other way for people to show their displeasure,” Spitler said. “(Storey) seemed the one that would be more judicial.”
Robotics engineer Roy Kornbluh said he voted to recall Persky, but that “it wasn’t an easy choice for me.”
“That was a really tough call, because I think he made the wrong decision on (the Brock Turner) case, but he was within the guidelines. You want the judicial to be kind of insulated from voters as well,” Kornbluh said.
He said he voted for Hendrickson as the successor to the recall.
Persky didn’t start campaigning against the recall until last year, and didn’t personally speak out until this spring. He cited the “awkwardness” of being thrust into the political sphere and the fact that judicial ethics prevent him from discussing cases.