• INTERACTIVE MAP: How Palo Altans voted | If it had been up to Palo Alto, Aaron Persky would still be a judge.
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Judge Aaron Persky, whose June 2016 sentencing of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner sparked a national debate about sexual violence and judicial independence, was ousted from his seat on the Santa Clara County Superior Court by voters Tuesday evening.
With every precinct reporting, the campaign to recall Persky earned 60 percent of Santa Clara County voters' approval. Opponents of the recall conceded late Tuesday that California's first recall of a judge in more than 80 years was effectively a done deal.
The recall effort was led by Stanford University Law School Professor Michele Dauber and spurred by Persky's decision to sentence Turner to six months in county jail after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated young woman in January 2015.
Proponents of the recall argued throughout the campaign that Turner's sentence was part of a broader pattern of the judge showing deference to white and privileged defendants in cases involving violence against women.
Just after midnight on election night, Dauber told the Weekly that the electorate voted against impunity for high-status perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence.
"We're in the middle of a historic moment, when women across all sectors of society are standing up and saying, 'Enough is enough,'" Dauber said. "And I think there is a sort of national reckoning with the fact that women aren't going to experience equality as long as we're subject to high rates of sexual violence and sexual harassment."
The recall effort drew opposition from dozens of judges and attorneys, many of whom argued that the recall would do damage to judicial independence and who disputed the assertion that Persky had demonstrated bias. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, while publicly critical of the Turner sentence, opposed the recall.
Persky declined to discuss the Tuesday vote. While the anti-recall campaign did not immediately respond to the Weekly's requests for comment, retired Santa Clara County Judge LaDoris Cordell, who served as a spokesperson for Persky's retain campaign in recent months, conceded in an interview with KPIX Tuesday night that the anti-recall side was unlikely to close the gap.
"If indeed it has succeeded and a good judge has lost his job for doing his job, I think it's a very sad day for the judiciary in California," Cordell said.
Cordell also argued that the election should embolden those voters who opposed the recall and who understood "what the recall was all about."
"It was not about anything other than taking away judicial independence," she told KPIX.
Anger over the Turner sentencing -- which took place before a national reckoning on sexual violence, the #MeToo movement, swept the country -- was spurred in large part by the emotional 12-page statement read by the young woman Turner had assaulted.
"My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me," wrote the woman, known by the pseudonym Emily Doe (her name is being withheld to protect her privacy). "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice -- until today."
The case led to swift legislative change. Within months, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill, proposed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, that established a mandatory prison sentence of three to eight years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person.
Despite the countywide vote, the recall had a Palo Alto locus, with leaders on both sides residing in Palo Alto.
Had the issue been decided solely by Palo Alto voters, Persky would have retained his job: Fifty-seven percent of the Palo Alto electorate voted against the recall; 43 percent supported it. In some neighborhoods -- including Crescent Park, Professorville and Leland Manor -- more than two-thirds of the voters opposed the recall. In many other precincts -- including those in Greenmeadow and Old Palo Alto -- opposition to the recall hovered at just about 60 percent.
Support for the recall was greater in neighborhoods closer to Stanford. In College Terrace, the recall supporters edged out opponents, 51 to 49 percent. And in Evergreen Park and Ventura, 56 percent of the voters supported the recall.
Support for the recall was even stronger inside Stanford. At the Escondido Village precinct, 66 percent of the voters supported ousting Persky.
But while some in Palo Alto expressed reservation about the recall, Dauber's campaign received a significant lift from voters Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose, where an overwhelming majority of precincts supported the recall effort.
With Persky's recall, Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson is expected to take over his seat. With all precincts reporting, Hendrickson had support from 69 percent of the voters, well above the 31 percent who voted for San Jose civil-rights attorney Angela Storey.
Hendrickson joined the department in 1995 as a deputy prosecutor and became assistant district attorney in 2011.
Hendrickson had aligned her campaign with the recall effort, saying she supported the idea of voters being able to oust judges for rendering poor decisions. In turn, pro-recall advocates endorsed her campaign and made donations to help get her elected. She avoided any mention of the Brock Turner case, but instead focused her campaign on her 23-year career as a prosecutor at the district attorney's office.
In contrast, Storey, who got only 31 percent of the vote, had a difficult stance to maintain. She opposed the recall in concept, but argued that she was the best qualified person to fill Persky's seat if he was removed.
Election results will be updated as they become available.
Read more about the June 5 primary election: