Stanford rape trial: Call to remove judge gains steam

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 10, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fledgling campaign to recall the judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman gained momentum Friday as three prominent political consultants joined the effort.

The Recall Judge Aaron Persky campaign said media consultant Joe Trippi, campaign strategist John Shallman and pollster Paul Maslin would help secure the signatures and votes required to remove the Santa Clara County jurist from the bench next year.

Trippi has worked for a number of Democratic presidential candidates, while Maslin's clients include Gov. Jerry Brown and members of Congress. Shallman has worked for the president of the California Senate, who spearheaded passage of a law requiring colleges and universities to apply a "yes means yes" standard in sexual misconduct cases.

Persky was re-elected in an unopposed election Tuesday, five days after sentencing Brock Turner, 20, to six months in jail and three years' probation. The punishment for the Dayton, Ohio, native ignited intense outcry as too lenient.

Prosecutors had argued for Turner to spend six years in prison for three felony convictions that could have sent him away for 14 years.

The judge said in court last week that he followed a recommendation from the county's probation department and cited Turner's clean criminal record and the effect the conviction will have on his life.

"I have daughters in college myself, and I find it deeply disturbing that a judge like Persky could let a campus predator like Turner off with barely a slap on the wrist," Shallman said. "Justice is supposed to be blind —not stupid."

A court spokesman has said Persky is barred from commenting because Turner is appealing his convictions of felony assault and attempted rape.

Meanwhile, a group of California lawmakers joined women's rights advocates in urging the California agency that investigates complaints of judicial misconduct to take action against Persky.

Eleven Democratic state lawmakers asked the Commission on Judicial Performance to investigate and discipline the judge, alleging he may have engaged in misconduct in sentencing Turner.

The judge's decision "confirms what women already knew: That rape culture blames us for being vulnerable when crimes are committed against us, but treats the same factors — drinking, in particular — as reasons to be exceedingly lenient with rapists," Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton said.

The lawmakers also want District Attorney Jeff Rosen to ask an appeals court to overturn the sentence. But prosecutors have said they don't think Persky's decision can be appealed because it was "authorized by law and was made by applying the correct standards."

Rosen also has said the judge should not lose his job because of the ruling.

Women's group UltraViolet submitted more than 800,000 signatures to the commission's San Francisco offices Friday in a symbolic effort for Persky's removal. The group also has filed a formal misconduct complaint.

The commission meets every six to eight weeks and usually decides whether to open an investigation within 60 days of receiving a complaint, agency attorney Victoria Henley said.

To trigger a recall election, campaign organizers need to collect signatures from 58,634 registered Santa Clara County voters. A majority vote would be required to remove the judge.

"His statements during the sentencing show that he does not understand sexual violence. He does not understand violence against women," said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who launched the recall campaign. "And so we are going to recall him, and we're going to replace him with someone who does."

Lawyers who have appeared in Persky's court have called him a fair and respected judge. He has no record of judicial discipline and previously worked as a prosecutor responsible for keeping sexual predators locked up.

Several prospective jurors who opposed Persky's decision refused to serve on a jury this week in an unrelated case he's handling. They were dismissed after reporting their complaints.

Online records show Turner is expected to be released from jail after three months. County jail inmates serve 50 percent of their sentences if they keep a clean disciplinary record. Turner is being segregated from the general jail population, which is standard for high-profile inmates who could be targets.