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