News


Brock Turner judge criticized for child-pornography sentencing

Recall campaign: 'Turner sentence is not an isolated case'

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the correct number of child-pornography files police located after arresting Chain.

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The campaign to recall Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky for his controversial sentencing of former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner is pointing to another "lenient" decision, this time in a 2014 child-pornography case, as further evidence of Persky's alleged bias in sex-crime cases.

In 2015, Persky sentenced Robert James Chain, a 48-year-old San Jose resident who pleaded guilty to a felony child-pornography charge, to four days in county jail, according to a press release the Recall Persky campaign put out Tuesday.

Chain was arrested in Sunnyvale in May 2014 following an investigation conducted by the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Police found one video and more than 200 child-pornography images, including of an infant, according to documents provided by the recall campaign.

Chain was charged in June 2014 with one count of possessing/controlling matter depicting a person under age 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct. The crime carries a maximum three-year penalty and no minimum. Persky eventually gave him the four-day sentence, three year's probation and ordered him to register as a sex offender. Court documents show this was an "open plea" rather than an agreement with the district attorney's office.

Persky said at Chain's sentencing that he would be "receptive" to Chain's request to reduce his conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor, "after one year of successful compliance with probation conditions," the sentencing transcript reads. A hearing on Chain's motion to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor is set for Aug. 25 before Persky.

Michele Dauber, the Stanford law professor and Palo Alto resident chairing the recall campaign, said in the press release that this "incredibly lenient" sentencing "suggests that the Brock Turner sentence is not an isolated case.

"Judge Persky simply does not understand or correctly weigh the harm caused by sexual violation and treats these serious crimes as if they are minor misdemeanors," she said.

Chain's attorney, Brian Madden of San Jose firm Madden & Redding, declined to comment on the record. AP reported that he said reducing Chain's conviction to a misdemeanor would help Chain be able to find future employment, housing and financing because a felony conviction would appear during background checks.

The recall campaign also researched sentencing outcomes for felony possession of child pornography in Santa Clara County and found 14 similar cases with defendants who were also arrested as the result of child-pornography "sweeps," charged as first-time child-pornography offenders, had similar amounts and types of material, were charged with the same crime and also pleaded guilty or no contest to the charged offense.

They found that out of those cases, every other defendant received a sentence of six months. Chain's case was the only one overseen by Persky, according to the recall campaign.

"This is why we believe that recall is the correct way to address this situation," Dauber said. "Judge Persky is out of step with his colleagues on the court."

Santa Clara County Public Defender Sajid Khan, who has spoken out in support of Persky in recent months, told the Weekly Tuesday that while Chain's four-day sentence was "unusual," it was within the bounds of the law and actually a "refreshing" break from the sentencing norm for this type of crime.

"While this particular sentence is, like I said, unusual, it is refreshing to see that a judge was willing, just like he did with Brock Turner, to not necessarily follow convention or follow expectations and instead impose a sentence that was appropriate for this unique individual and for this unique case," Khan said.

He noted that the common six month's sentencing has become the "accepted norm" but is not an actual legal limit or statutory guideline.

The idea that going below this norm is "indicative of the judge's leniency or some indicator of the judge's inability to be fair and impartial" is "not accurate," Khan said.

Persky, who is barred from commenting on open cases, has faced international ire since he sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years of probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated woman outside a fraternity party on Stanford's campus in 2015. With credit for good behavior, Turner is expected to be released on Sept. 2.

The Recall Persky campaign said it plans to hold a rally that day with Congressional members, local elected officials and prominent women's organizations and leaders.

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The Palo Alto Weekly has created Storify pages to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

27 people like this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm

I support the "Recall Judge Perksy" movement.

We should be stricter in enforcing the law.

[Portion removed; off topic]


34 people like this
Posted by #RecallPersky
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Well at least now we know that we no longer have to listen to anything that Sajid Khan and his public defender friends have to say about Judge Persky's sentences for sex offenders, since he has shown what his real values are. Sajid Khan thinks it is "refreshing" and a good thing that Robert Chain got zero jail time for this hideous offense? [Portion removed.]

I wasn't sure about the recall but now I am fully behind it. That comment that this is "refreshing" pushed me to their side. That is not right and this judge needs to go.

I don't agree. #recallpersky


5 people like this
Posted by Sprout23
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Sprout23 is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


30 people like this
Posted by #RecallPersky
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm

According to the Guardian: "Judge Aaron Persky ordered Robert James Chain, a 48-year-old northern California man who pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse images, to serve a four-day sentence in 2015. Police reports reveal that officers who searched Chain’s house found dozens of disturbing videos and images of minors, including one depicting the sexual assault of an infant." Web Link

[Portion removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by another light sentence
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Week-end jail for a brutal assault:
Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Aisha
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 6:53 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Glenno
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Please know that being on the S.O. Registry in California is a life sentence and far worse than any jail or prison time. As much as you want to disagree with him, Persky followed the law. Y'all need to get over this and move on. There are far worse things happening in our world today!


26 people like this
Posted by @Glenno
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Right...because as we all know, no one will *ever* come to the assistance of said Brock Turner. Ever.

Are you kidding me??? This character will get jobs through his network of fraternity brothers and associates, and people like you will work to make sure that he will *never* face any actual consequences for his actions that night.

And if you actually think that sexual assault is not that bad, you really need a reset.


25 people like this
Posted by TTSF
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:46 pm

TTSF is a registered user.

@Glenno with all due respect,,,Maybe YOU should "get over this". Just because Judge Persky has the legal right to give whatever sentence he wanted doesnt make him right ..The more that is revealed about Judge Persky,the worse it all seems...He seems less and less competent as a Judge deciding cases... This defendant possessed a lot of child pornography and he gets 4 days? Imagine if that baby shown in this pornography was a baby you knew or was a baby that had been abducted....Its all so sickening...After all isnt the purpose of the law to protect people from predators ESPECIALLY Children!!! I agree theres terrible things going on "out there" but to me the conduct or misconduct of Judge Persky is among them and deserving of a correction by the ballot box.


Like this comment
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 9, 2016 at 10:23 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:13 am

[Post removed.]


32 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

mauricio is a registered user.

It seems that for some strange reason, and I'm not a psychiatrist, Judge Persky bends over backward to be lenient, or rather extra lenient toward male sex offenders.


12 people like this
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:49 am

Where will the rally be held on Sept. 2???


24 people like this
Posted by Recall Persky Campaign
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:33 am

Here's the facebook event for the September 2 Rally:

Web Link

The Rally for the Recall of Judge Persky will be held at 10:00am on Friday, September 2 at the San Jose Courthouse:

San Jose Superior Court
161 N 1st St, Ste A, San Jose, California 95113

Speakers will include several California members of Congress and other local elected officials.

There is plenty of parking.


24 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:53 am

Judge Persky needs a wait up call, or therapy, or some basic common sense would help. One has to wonder why he feels affluent, white, males, should be allowed to commit sex crimes without any consequences?


24 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:43 am

I'm still asking myself what's wrong with this INCOMPETENT judge -- He needs to go, and the sooner the better!


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:50 am

Annette is a registered user.

It's my understanding that a considerable number of judges do NOT support the recall and that a primary reason for this is the concern that judges need to be able to make decisions that are NOT driven by public opinion. This is important. I am inclined to accept that an experienced and large group of judges know more about sentencing than the general public. If that group deemed Persky to be an incompetent judge who should be removed, I think they would have found a way to make that clear.


6 people like this
Posted by @Annette
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 10, 2016 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Annette - I agree with you - the sentencing was within the guidelines as set by the law. [Portion removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by #RecallPersky
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 10, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Not hard to figure out why judges would not support a judicial recall. That's not persuasive to me. I'm way more worried about victims of sex crimes and battered women getting justice.


7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I pulled up the article about the judges and offer these two excerpts:

#1: A number of prominent figures in the Bay Area legal community signed the letter. They include retired Judge LaDoris Cordell, who was also a vice provost at Stanford University and a police auditor for the city of San Jose, and retired Judge Leonard Edwards, who has been outspoken about juvenile justice issues.

#2 The letter does not take a position on the controversial sentence that Persky imposed on Turner, who was convicted in March on three felony sexual assault charges. But the retired judges contend the record shows that Persky “took the matter seriously” and handed down the decision in accordance with the law.

That these are retired judges tells me that there's no personal professional reason for them to get involved with this. Rather, I assume they are concerned about the integrity of the process and wanting to make certain that public opinion is not driving judicial decisions. I obviously cannot speak for the judges but my guess is they were thinking beyond the Turner case and focusing on the principle.


6 people like this
Posted by @Annette
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:23 pm

"The letter does not take a position on the controversial sentence that Persky imposed on Turner, who was convicted in March on three felony sexual assault charges. But the retired judges contend the record shows that Persky 'took the matter seriously' and handed down the decision in accordance with the law."

Just because they are judges certainly does NOT mean they are not capable of looking at a situation correctly. The evidence regarding the Turner case bears that out.


16 people like this
Posted by Juris imprudence
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Juris imprudence is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

He is certainly not prudent or impartial, and such a mere slap on the wrist just increases the likelihood that these men will offend again! I can't believe Persky didn't mandate that these men receive psychiatric help.

[Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Marielena
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Judge Persky needs to go. I feel dismayed to hear how he has minimizad the acts of this people who violated the rights of the woman involved in the turner case and I feel even worst to hear that this other person had child porno and again he was like not a big deal. Michelle thanks for the work you are doing and bringing out to light this dark cases. God Bless you and your family. Hey you should run for president next time.


7 people like this
Posted by DAVID
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2016 at 12:54 am

How come no one is looking at the probation department; they are the ones that issue the sentencing recommendations that judges usually go by. In the Brock case, the judge followed the sentencing recommendation of the probation department, as usual.

It's important for judges not to go by public opinion.


7 people like this
Posted by TTSF
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 11, 2016 at 1:15 am

TTSF is a registered user.

@David your right ..there should be much great emphasis on the complete incompetence of the Santa Clara Probation Department... they ignored evidence and protestations by the Prosecution of Turners lies... IF I hear one more person cite that Persky followed the Probation Department guidelines and thus he was "just doing his job"....First,even the Probation Department asked for a longer sentence in County jail...Persky gave him LESS time...Since the case was finished on June 2,the Probation department went to the County jail to reinterview Turner and essentially set a trap for him and confronted him with his evidenced lies...This reinterview after sentencing is unprecedented from people I know in Criminal legal circles.. In the end,the incompetence of the Probation department should not be a cover for Judge Persky in the Turner case. As more comes out concerning Perskys handling of the child pornographers case.. Perskys abilities are further called into question. I do not frankly care how people involved in the legal profession be they retired Judges or Public defenders ect..they have their opinions ...voters can have another. The recall procedure exists to remove incompetent Judges..in my opinion,Persky has shown his incompetence in a number of cases not just the Turner case....I hope he is recalled in 2017. In fact,I would hope he would resign soon


1 person likes this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:13 am

Much of this is fallout from liberal, forgiving legislation like Prop. 109 and AB-47 that significantly reduced the seriousness of certain crimes and led to early inmate release from our jails and prisons. A much greater emphasis has been placed on lowering sentences and/or not incarcerating those convicted altogether. This is especially true in California. In some cases no doubt justified and appropriate. In many other cases innocent people fall victim. We get what we get.


5 people like this
Posted by OpenYourEyes
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:26 pm

I wasn't aware that so many people were privy to the detail of these cases. Were you guys in the courtrooms?Or are you the typical mindless citizen that is controlled by the media? Dig a little deeper into the child porn case and you will see different reports. Most outlets are trying to spice up the story to make the story more exciting. The 4 day plea was due to lack of evidence. It was suspected that that guy possesed all that stuff. When sex crimes division had trouble obtaining the evedence they expected to find, they forced a plea or go to trial that could take forever. A mountain of evedence (which is being reported) has a higher mandatory sentence. I swear, some people will believe anything they hear because some beat writer is trying to better his career. Get the facts straight before you claim to be a better judge


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

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