Capitol Alert

Judge in Stanford rapist case must go, California lawmakers urge

This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky.
This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. AP

Echoing national outrage over a college rapist receiving a more lenient sentence than prosecutors sought, California lawmakers want the resignation of the judge who presided over Brock Turner’s case – and, failing that, they are considering impeachment.

Turner received a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the Stanford University campus, a lighter penalty than the six-year prison term advocated by prosecutors. The sentence has fueled an outcry from those who say Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky downplayed the seriousness of rape by deferring to Turner’s youth and clean record.

More than 1 million people have signed a nonbinding petition to recall Persky. A Stanford Law School professor is leading an official recall effort, which has attracted the support of seasoned political operatives.

California lawmakers have added their voices, calling one after another this week for Persky to resign. Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, publicly urged Persky’s ouster on Monday. On Friday, they followed up with a letter asking the Commission on Judicial Performance to review Persky’s conduct and a letter to Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen seeking a writ allowing a new sentence.

“I think what the judge did was send a message to young women saying if you’re assaulted, it’s probably your fault,” Eggman said, “and it sent a message to young men: Go ahead, fellas, have your fun; we won’t hold you accountable.”

At least 10 other lawmakers have joined in seeking Persky’s resignation. If he refuses to step aside, the legislative effort could escalate.

The California Constitution permits impeachment of judges for “misconduct in office,” a word Eggman and Garcia’s letter used to describe Persky’s actions. Eggman said lawmakers were “absolutely” keeping that option open and added that she was supporting efforts to qualify a write-in candidate to face Persky, who is up for re-election in November – “hopefully a woman.”

“Our intention is to proceed with every available option to say this is inappropriate, “ Eggman said. “We will not tolerate this rape culture.”

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert