Judge Who Sentenced Brock Turner Quits Criminal Court

Judge Aaron Persky believes switching to civil court will reduce "distractions that threaten to interfere" with his duties.
Stephen Lam / Reuters

The California judge whose lenient sexual assault sentence of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner sparked national outrage has asked to quit presiding over criminal trials.

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky will be reassigned to civil court in September at his request, according to a statement from the presiding judge first obtained by The Mercury News.

“While I firmly believe in Judge Persky’s ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served,” Presiding Judge Risë Jones Pichon said in the statement. “Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment.”

Persky has been the target of intense criticism and a recall campaign since June, when he sentenced Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the Stanford campus. The judge disregarded the prosecutor’s argument for a six-year prison term, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. He added: “I think he will not be a danger to others.”

Turner will likely only serve three months.

Persky will continue to preside over criminal cases until next month. He recused himself from a new sex crimes case this week.

His transfer will not be permanent. Judges are rotated every year, and he could transfer back to criminal court in the future.

The switch won’t affect a push for his recall in November 2017, according to a representative of the group Recall Judge Aaron Persky, led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber.

“The issue of his judicial bias in favor of privileged defendants in sex crimes and domestic violence still needs to be addressed by the voters of Santa Clara County,” a statement emailed to The Huffington Post reads. “In our opinion, Judge Persky is biased and should not be on the bench.”

Persky’s sentencing of Turner was widely denounced. A juror on the panel that convicted Turner of three felony sex crimes said he was in “shock” by the light punishment.

“After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults, but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape,” a letter to Persky from the anonymous juror read.

Because of the outcry, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would impose minimum sentences for sexual assaults committed on an unconscious or severely intoxicated person.

Tyler Kingkade contributed reporting.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Brock Turner was convicted of rape. He was convicted of felony sexual assault.

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