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Assault survivors, supporters submit 200,000 more signatures seeking judge's removal

Group submits additional signatures to state Commission on Judicial Performance

A group of women's advocates and assault survivors gave a judicial agency in San Francisco 200,000 more signatures Wednesday calling for the ouster of a judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexual assault.

The new signatures add to more than a million previously submitted to the state Commission on Judicial Performance on June 10, together with a formal complaint seeking an investigation of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky.

The commission investigates judicial misconduct and has the power to impose punishments ranging from censure to removal from office.

"Until they do what's right, we're not forgetting them. We will keep fighting for all the survivors until we get a better culture," said group spokeswoman Melissa Byrne.

On June 2, Persky sentenced former Stanford student and swim team member Brock Turner, 20, to six months in county jail for his conviction on three felony counts of sexual assault in 2015 on a woman who was unconscious from intoxication.

Prosecutors had asked for six years in state prison. Persky said during the proceeding that he believed a prison sentence would have "a severe impact" on Turner. Turner is expected to be released from his jail term after three months.

The sentence has drawn widespread outcry and international attention.

UltraViolet, a national women's rights group, organized the submission of the signatures and a rally of about 30 people this morning outside the State Building where 10 sexual assault survivors spoke.

"Say no to rape culture," Ruby Elton, a recent high school graduate, said to the crowd carrying signs stating "Fire Judge Persky" and "Remove Judge Persky."

California Highway Patrol officers who provide security at the State Building allowed only five members of the group to go to the commission's office on the 14th floor.

Behind the closed door of the office, the group could be heard chanting, "Fire Judge Persky."

After presenting the signatures, the group leaders told news reporters that commission director and chief counsel Victoria Henley personally received the signatures from behind a plexiglass window but commission members, who were meeting today, did not greet the group.

Assault survivor April Grant, 54, of Pacifica, said outside the office, "We are not saying that all rapists should be treated equally, but justice and common sense should be used. Where is the common sense in a three-month sentence?"

"All Judge Persky cared about was the future of Brock Turner," Grant said.

The 11-member commission is made up of three judges, two lawyers and six citizens. It has the power only to investigate and discipline misconduct, such as corruption, and does not have the authority to change a ruling.

The commission's website says that errors in a judicial decision are not normally considered misconduct.

After the sentencing, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen called Turner a "predatory offender" and said he disagreed with the sentence, but said he did not think Persky should be removed from office.

Henley was not immediately available for comment today.

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To read the Palo Alto Weekly's ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University, go to the Weekly's Storify page.

Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Just read today where this judge sentenced a non-white, non-college student, 3 years in prison for sexual assault.


36 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Those who still naively support this judge, or think he should not be removed, need to know that he sentenced a young man who is not caucasian and who is not a college student athlete to three years in state prison for a similar conviction. How can a failure to investigate this judge by the approriate agencies be justified?


31 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Persky should do the honorable thing for once and resign. He is an abject failure. The scheme to release Turner just in time for the autumn athletic season has completely failed.


28 people like this
Posted by Thankfull to Dauber
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Great job at supporting the victim. The judge failed her, but not the community. I attended IN DEEP Radio event at Keplers Bookstore this morning in Menlo Park and it was a good experience to see that there are members of this community who do not want to pretend that nothing happened to the victim. Thanks for the people who took the time to put this event together. I hope the judge is recall. I am a Latino person and I know that if my child have commttited this crime, he will be in for a big sentence and not just 6 months. Shame on the judge in charge of this rape case. We still suffer discrimination.


21 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

As this story notes, "The commission's website says that errors in a judicial decision are not normally considered misconduct."

That is why I hope that people who believe, as we do, that the decision is based on bias and was an abuse of discretion, will visit www.recallpersky.com and donate and sign up to support the recall. With your support, we will be able to place this judge on the ballot and allow the voters to weigh in.

Under Article II, Section 14 of the California Constitution, judges are accountable to those they serve. This is not a radical idea -- this is simply how our law works in California.

The sole method provided by law for addressing issues like this one is an election. We hope voters will participate in this process and will replace this judge with someone who understands the harm of sexual violence. Judge Persky clearly does not.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2016 at 8:08 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is only one way for Mr. Persky to atone for his failure to mete out justice. Resign today.


17 people like this
Posted by Caitlin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

On the one hand I am very pleased at the huge public outcry to remove this incompetent judge from his job.

On the other hand, I am also angry that remedy requires huge public outcry when this sort of obvious white boys club bias (against women and for white boys) occurs in a courtroom, which happens every day somewhere in this country.

These events are only symptoms of the endemic rape culture and the expected "white majority" tolerance for these miscarriages of justice. The justice system would do nothing voluntarily to fix the problem.

I hope my point is clear: I am fully delighted with the public outrage.

I am sick at heart that we need it to get this idiot off the bench.


1 person likes this
Posted by TT SF
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2016 at 8:27 pm

For all those who have defended Judge Persky..I ask them to defend the sentence to the 27 year old immigrant who had NO prior convictions.. Of course,this defendant did NOT have a high price lawyer and team. And this Judge allowed a plea bargain to go forward something he could have oppossed......it would be fascinating to hear Judge Perskys defense of his total inconsistency. The Judge has only heard felony cases since 2015(from what I have read) thus his long record of being fair and thoughtful that so many have spoken of really does not exist. Its only too bad the anti Judge Persky group cannot get a candidate to oppose Judge Persky by write in...only needing 600 signatures seems easily accomplished and would force the electorate to cast votes up or down for this incompetent Judge.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Since about half the comments here reference the case that Persky sentenced the defendant to 3 years, it is worthwhile in discussing where they are similar and where they are different.

The cases are similar in that neither defendant had sexual intercourse, but both manually penetrated the victim. That's about where the similarities end.

The biggest difference is that the victim was severely drunk and eventually lost consciousness in one case and sober and alert in the other. That is a huge difference on a number of levels:

- California law treats these situations differently and the sentences reflect these differences.

- Because of her inebriation and subsequent blackout, the victim in the Turner case could not provide any reliable account of the events, whereas the victim in the other case could. In the case of the longer sentence, it was well established that the victim informed the defendant that she wanted him to stop. In the Turner case, nobody except maybe Turner (he was very drunk, too) knows what the victim did and did not consent to. For that matter, no one knows when the victim lost consciousness and was unable to give consent.

- The situations were completely different. In one case the victim was in her own (shared) home, minding her own business. In the Turner case the victim went (on her own free will) to a college party, where getting drunk and hooking up is commonplace and well understood. Particularly by recent college grads, as this victim was.

- Turner was drunk and the other defendant was sober (I think). This shouldn't be an excuse, but if the victim in the Turner case, and those calling for Persky's recall, are going to argue that she isn't accountable for what happened because she was drunk, then Turner should get the some of the benefit of that reasoning, too. At Turner's BAC, symptoms include "Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and dysphoria (anxiety, restlessness) is beginning to appear. Judgment and perception are severely impaired."

In both cases there were other mitigating factors. As far as I can tell, Persky considered them appropriately and applied the minimum sentences available to the respective cases.


9 people like this
Posted by Mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 1, 2016 at 6:04 am

According to the logic of "resident" above, if a drunk driver kills someone, he/she should get a very light sentence because their judgment and perception are severely impaired. The verbiage he/she is using to excuse the Turner non-punishment is tragically convoluted and amusing. The real reason the other defendant received three year in state prison is that he didn't belong to the good old boy club the judge and Brock Turner belong to, and couldn't afford good lawyers.


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2016 at 7:33 am

Resident says, "In the Turner case, nobody except maybe Turner (he was very drunk, too) knows what the victim did and did not consent to. For that matter, no one knows when the victim lost consciousness and was unable to give consent."

These are questions that were decided by the jury in convicting Turner. It may well be true that Persky disagreed with the jury on them. His comment during sentencing indicated it probably did disagree. But reflecting that disagreement in the sentence is an abuse of discretion.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2016 at 10:56 am

@Mauricio: There is no line of logic between what I said and your drunk driving example. I could just as easily say that according to your logic the victim is entirely responsible for what happened to her because of her drinking.

There is simply no evidence that there was a racial component to these sentences, either. The hispanic defendant plead guilty to a crime that carries a greater minimum sentence than the ones that Turner was convicted of. If I understand correctly, the sentencing in pleas is agreed upon between the defense and prosecution and the judge essentially rubber stamps the agreement.

I would agree with your assertion that wealth and the ability to afford quality legal representation does affect how justice is meted in our society. It is entirely possible that a good (and expensive) lawyer could have worked a plea to a lesser charge that carried a shorter sentence. This is an important discussion, and just one of many important discussions that these cases raise. Tarring and feathering Persky isn't going to fix any of these issues, however.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2016 at 11:10 am

@Parent: It is my understanding that one of the primary roles of a judge in a criminal trial is to apply their discretion to the sentencing. Just because that application of discretion is unpopular doesn't make it an abuse. On the contrary, I believe that it is important that we have judges who answer to their own legal and ethical expertise rather than public opinion.

That doesn't mean that judges should never be removed if serious ethical, legal, or competence issues are evident - I just haven't seen a solid argument made against Persky yet.


5 people like this
Posted by TTSF
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2016 at 11:47 pm

TTSF is a registered user.

@Resident I have read the court documents a number of times including the Probation report and the transcript of the sentencing on June 2...I feel that the Probation Department was definitely affected by the legal maneuvers of Turners Attorney Armstrong and his team. Are we to believe the legal team did not "school" Turner on what to say and what not to say? That goes for that team making sure the Turner family got many character statements favorable to Brock Turner forwarded to Judge Persky. Thats what defendants get when they hire high priced attorneys. In the end,its Judge Perskys task to see thru their "moves" (same with the Probation Department) One cannot read the transcript of June 2 and NOT see VERY clearly that Persky was VERY taken with Brock Turner...he states essentially over and over that he believed Turners narrative and essentially NOT the Jurys 3 Felony verdicts. Its within Judge Perskys legal right to believe what he wanted and give whatever sentence he wanted. Persky even totally discounted the clear evidence of Turners lies..his inconsistencies in his story and statements. Thats what I have found so incredibly troubling about this case.. Judge Perskys conduct. While I decry the sentence Mr Padilla received,I know that the law in California right now is the cause of the differences with the Turner case. I hope the legislative initiative to fix this succeeds expeditiously. To every action there is a reaction...Its my belief that less discretion on the part of Judges is going to be the result of Judge Perskys lack of good judgement.. In answer to the concerns about Judges having to deal or act related to Public opinion..This is ONLY ever an issue AFTER what is considered poor judgement by a particular Judge. I believe the entire manner that Judge Persky handled the Turner case was very poor judgement. Although I am a big supporter of the Judges recall,Persky has time on his side and the events that happen in the US and the World make his actions smaller. The Recall side can only hope that Turners release on September 2 and the events of the coming appeal by Dennis Riordan(the MOST high priced appellate Attorney) on Turners behalf will keep the case in the public eyes. At least thats my hope...


1 person likes this
Posted by Another Girl Named Doe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2016 at 5:40 pm

"Resident" I have to point out your gross misunderstanding of the issues and ask you to re-consider your perspective. Sadly, I'm afraid that you are not alone in this perhaps sub-conscious, but ultimately harmful bias in our culture and in our communities.

First, you stated that: "The biggest difference is that the victim was severely drunk and eventually lost consciousness in one case and sober and alert in the other. That is a huge difference on a number of levels"

This is the crux of the problem with your understanding of the issue. It is not a huge difference. Rape, digital rape, and sexual assault occur where the victim does not, cannot, or both - does not and cannot give consent.

You further stated that "California law treats these situations differently and the sentences reflect these differences."

As discussed above, California law does not treat the sexual assault/rape of a conscious person differently than unconscious person because the issue is consent. The difference in sentencing reflects the willingness and availability of resources to go to trial.Turner's expensive defense counsel no doubt took a calculated risk that either the judge or the jury would sympathize with their white, baby-faced client, and would think as you do - that the Victim was complicit in her sexual assault. If Turner had a public defender, with the facts and evidence that the prosecution had in his case - he would have been urged to take a plea deal. He would have gone to prison.

"Because of her inebriation and subsequent blackout, the victim in the Turner case could not provide any reliable account of the events," this miss-characterizes the facts.

The victim in the Turner assault was unconscious, not simply inebriated or blacked-out. She was UNCONSCIOUS according to two unbiased, sober witnesses. She continued to be unconscious for several hours after the witnesses saw Turner dry humping her lifeless body; this is according to police, and medical professionals. While you are correct that she did not say no, it is objectively clear that she could not and did not provide consent. Which is, notably, why Turner was found guilty, beyond a shadow of a doubt, unanimously by a jury, or as the law views them "fact-finders".

"In the case of the longer sentence, it was well established that the victim informed the defendant that she wanted him to stop." Actually, what we have here is a "he said/she said" case. While I think it is right that the victim's account be believed, again, if Turner and his defense team were faced with the account of a sober and conscious victim, it would have been her word against his. He still would insist that she had consented, that she didn't say "no" clearly enough, that she didn't scream, that he honestly thought she liked it/him etc. I suspect you would be asking: where are the defensive wounds? Why did she choose to live with this guy? What did she do to lead him on?

Then, you explain that, "In the Turner case, nobody except maybe Turner (he was very drunk, too) knows what the victim did and did not consent to. For that matter, no one knows when the victim lost consciousness and was unable to give consent."

Please, please, please understand that the victim was unable to give consent BEFORE she completely lost consciousness. When she was unable to form a coherent intelligible sentence (supported by evidence: voicemail left for her boyfriend directly before the assault), when she could not WALK, and fell down (according to Turner), THAT is when she could not give her consent. Do not strip, fondle, grope, penetrate (with anything), a person who cannot talk, and cannot walk. Do not sexually pleasure yourself by using, or congratulate yourself for dominating and overpowering a person who is out cold.

As I'm sure you have gathered, by now Resident, I must also take issue with your paragraph on victim blaming:

"The situations were completely different. In one case the victim was in her own (shared) home, minding her own business. In the Turner case the victim went (on her own free will) to a college party, where getting drunk and hooking up is commonplace and well understood. Particularly by recent college grads, as this victim was."

Legally, the decisions and actions of the victims leading up to the commission of the crimes against them, in either case, are not relevant to the consideration of mitigating factors for a defendant during sentencing. The vulnerability of the victim leading up to crime, including the level of intoxication of the victim, may only be considered as an aggravating factor. Your analysis, actual runs counter to California's sentencing guidelines - the ones Judge Persky, I (and approximately 1 million others) believe, he abused. The victims are not on trial. If Judge Persky, in fact focused on the "differences" in the victims' conduct in sentencing rather than defendants' as you have suggested, he should both have the sentence overturned on appeal AND be recalled.

Finally, please consider and explain how attending a "...college party (on her own freewill), where getting drunk and hooking-up is commonplace and well understood", makes Brock Turner less culpable for his decision to mount, upon her collapse, a girl too intoxicated to brace herself when she fell; less culpable for his decision to pull up her dress and remove her underwear, for his decision to penetrate her with his dirt covered fingers, for his decision to remove her cardigan, grope her, and pull her breast from her bra to share the image of this conquest with his bros on GroupMe. He made at least one, if not all, of these decisions while she lay unconscious in the dirt, bleeding from her fall. Now, please compare the series of decisions made by the Victim and made by Brock Turner, and explain which decisions merit a life-sentence and which merit 3 months in County jail. Explain how justice is best served by focusing on the victim's decision to get drunk at a college party rather than the decisions of the rapist to commit the crimes for which he is being sentenced.

It was Judge Perky's job in sentencing to punish Brock Turner for the crimes he was convicted of committing, to protect the community from future harm, and to deter others like Brock from assuming that they are entitled to gratification, and dominion over the bodies of all girls who decide to drink at college parties. Clearly, he failed.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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