News


Voters recall Judge Aaron Persky

Judge ousted after controversial 2016 ruling in sexual-assault trial, but Palo Altans voted to the contrary

Judge Aaron Persky speaks out at a press conference about his forthcoming recall election in a private residence in Palo Alto on May 8, 2018. Photo by Adam Pardee.

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:

Diana Diamond blog: Persky's recall: a loss for our nation's judicial system

Smith and Hirokawa to face-off in sheriff's race in November

Bridge-toll hike poised to pass

Palo Alto residents head to polls in California primary

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

Mark Noack, staff writer for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com, contributed to this story.

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Comments

102 people like this
Posted by Jayson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Hopefully this will send a clear message to other judges that light sentences will not be tolerated for violent crimes.


102 people like this
Posted by JJ
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2018 at 9:59 pm

The brainwashed masses go along with anything the powerful tell them to. Salem Witch Trials, the persecution of Galileo... only difference today is that the university and the church are now the same institution, and they now claim to have science on their side.

Feminist clergy [portion removed] are brimming with disdain for males, but their destructive reign is crumbling as bold and noble humanists of both sexes stand up to their tyranny.

The elites in the Bay Area don't know it yet, but their thinking is outdated - they are stuck fighting the phantoms of the 60s. Their memes are like dinosaurs and will soon go extinct.


49 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2018 at 10:18 pm

Jayson:
>> Hopefully this will send a clear message to other judges that light sentences will not be tolerated for violent crimes.

I don't think this for light sentences ... at least I hope it is not. My feeling it was for discrimination in sentencing. I don't think this judge would have given a "light" sentence to a kid from a less privileged background, so to me that was the issue. The message I am hoping this starts to send to government is that people are watching and going to react when they see certain problems, chief among them these days is treatment based on class inequality.

The other side of this is that if you look into the comment section, and the "likes" for the last months on this issue all over Palo Alto Online, why is it so biased against the recall effort. It is clear that there is funny business going on in the local city media, and either Palo Alto Online is unaware of it, they do not know about it, or they approve of it.

How about a local online media outlet that does not try to shove opinions down resident's throats, PAO?


69 people like this
Posted by @JJ
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 5, 2018 at 10:33 pm

[Post removed.]


80 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sea Seelam Reddy is a registered user.

Let's all learn from this.

It's too much drinking on both sides that ruined the lives of victim and aggressor. It has impacted life of a Judge that is a graduate of Stanford.


No body won, three families and lives impacted.

Campus parties should be monitored and proper action must be taken for safe living on campus.

The essence of this outcome is the aggressor got away with minimal punishment.

Let's teach our college age children; it's not cool to drink too much and do stupid things to ruin their lives. Its similar to drinking and driving

Respectfully


71 people like this
Posted by BalancedCarefulConsideration
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 6, 2018 at 9:25 am

BalancedCarefulConsideration is a registered user.

Right. Reminds me of: rejecting a previously respected physician's perspective when this time they offer a diagnosis or recommendation that isn't what you hoped for; discarding an opinion of a formerly valued friend who chooses to tell you the truth rather than what you wanted to hear; dismissing your formerly valued personal trainer when they suggest that to make real, steady progress, you need to also workout between sessions.

Very sad, the idea that a well-regarded judge (or anyone) with a solidly established history of integrity, professionalism and thoroughness can offer a perspective- in this case a sentence- that goes against a set of naive expectations that may have lacked actual understanding of the details and nuances of the case, and be discarded as a result.

As stated above by Sea Seelam Reddy, no winners at all in this case. But really tragic to have a well-intendeded, respected, and thoughtful judge recalled as a result. (As I understand it, many of the angles on his rulings in prior cases were also distorted by the pro-recall masses to suggest that he exhibited preferential treatment of certain privileged individuals when he didn't.)


93 people like this
Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 9:31 am

Hinrich is a registered user.

I am a New Yorker with the past 25 years in Palo Alto. The recall was a bad day for justice and I strongly believe a bad day for the community. Recent years have seen a decline of faith in institutions and a rise in street activism, especially in the Bay Area where the left has moved far to much to the left. I will be one of the 46% to be happy to one day leave California for many of the same reasons expressed in the recent poll but also because activists are driving such bad judgement that the problems will only get worse. Dauber’s crusade is an empty victory which does nothing for women while harming an independent judiciary.


116 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2018 at 10:30 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Anything but a recall would have been immoral. This judge had a pattern of going very easy on men who abuse women. He had a pattern of favoring athletes, and he had a pattern of showing no sympathy for the survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, while having no problem showing leniency and even sympathy toward the abusers.

In essence, he was eimplicitin victim blaming. His campaign, shockingly, blamed the victim, going to the gutter by claiming the survivor didn't even write her famous letter. His chief spokeswoman was overheard dismissing the seriousness of the Turner attack, which would bee now considered rape, as "two drunk horney kids messing around". Not surprising bearing his mind the former judge had hired Trump operatives to try to save him.

Such a person should not be allowed to sit on the bench, and he made women in SC County less safe. Good riddance.


67 people like this
Posted by Greenmeadow Resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 6, 2018 at 10:58 am

Greenmeadow Resident is a registered user.

@mauricio -- Facts are important, and the recall campaign intentionally lied about Persky's record. There has been NO pattern of favoring whites or athletes. In fact, he has a long-standing record of fair-mindedness. While I would have preferred a longer sentence, Persky followed the law and was consistent with sentencing of other first-time offenders.


18 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:21 am

Annette is a registered user.

I am heartened that Palo Alto voted as it did, but also think Sea Reddy correctly notes that there are no winners in this. I agree with those who consider this a sad outcome. The ripple effects from one fateful night have been nothing but destructive, and that may well continue given the outcome of this vote.

Hopefully, though, this will close a chapter for Emily Doe and she can awaken each day w/o being caught in the vortex controversy.


3 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:34 am

Novelera is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


38 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:47 am

Charles is a registered user.

@maurcio......there is no factual basis for your misleading comment. The record of Judge Persky over the tears consistently shows no bias.

"This judge had a pattern of going very easy on men who abuse women. He had a pattern of favoring athletes, and he had a pattern of showing no sympathy for the survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, while having no problem showing leniency and even sympathy toward the abusers."

Had the facts been presented to voters honestly, the recall would have never happened.


63 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:49 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Only in an upside down world would would one surmise that Persky didn't have a pattern of favoring white athletes, and male perpetrators in general in cases of sexual and domestic abuse. the facts speak for themselves, despite the Trump-like campaign by the NO camp, and fortunately, an overwhelming majority of SC voters could see through their nonsense and were not fooled.

[Portion removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:54 am

Charles is a registered user.

@ Hinrich.....I couldn't agree with you more and share your sentiments regarding the leftist direction the state has taken. I've seen the decline of California and particularly the bay area over the last 40 years I've been here because of the radical progressivism of the left.


51 people like this
Posted by Lennie
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:54 am

Lennie is a registered user.

I am proud to be a resident of Palo Alto knowing that the clear majority of Palo Alto residents voted against the recall. Ms Dauber and her followers succeeded in turning this unfortunate incident into a feminist issue. They blamed the judge for all the terrible things that men have done to women since the time of Adam and Eve or the evolution of humans, whichever you believe in. Henceforth, we will have longer prison sentences for all male vs. female crimes. Given that the USA already has the largest prison population in the world, I wonder how many more prisons we will need to build to house all the young men who drank too much and didn't use good judgment. Perhaps Ms. Dauber should now start a campaign to raise money for new prison construction rather than for signature gathering.


10 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Charles is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


40 people like this
Posted by Dilettante
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 6, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Dilettante is a registered user.

The success of the recall campaign is a bad omen for judicial independence, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. However, I am not surprised: as the 2016 election of Trump clearly demonstrated, lies, misstatements, hyperbole, outside interference, hidden personal agendas, social media manipulation, and not a little bit of populist hysteria wins the day. It is hard to combat such tactics with mere facts and judicious reasoning.

When you next read about a judge being recalled because they decided to correct a gerrymandered voting district, give a lenient sentence for minor pot possession, ordered an abortion clinic to stay open, decided that African-American lives DO matter, a Muslim travel ban violates the Constitution, or a sitting President can't pardon himself, don't be surprised.

Recalling Judge Persky is one step towards the de-democratization of our great national experiment. Deplorable.


97 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"The success of the recall campaign is a bad omen for judicial independence, a fundamental pillar of our democracy."

Judicial independence and an elected judiciary are a priori mutually exclusive. The voters exercised their privilege and did their duty under the existing system.


95 people like this
Posted by Dotty Henderson
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Dotty Henderson is a registered user.

I'm so proud of the recall proponents. They withstood:

- False analogies between judicial independence for a Federal judge and an elected county judge
- Many false accusations of dishonesty
- Denial that the victim was attacked from the inner circle of Judge Persky's campaign
- Smears directed at the victim (for example, that she didn't write her own victim impact statement) from people like LaDoris Cordell (who has debased herself utterly with rape myths, dishonesty, and ranting) and James McManis
- Establishment politicians like Simitian, Eshoo, and Lofgren who don't like democracy when it comes for one of them.

Emily Doe, we stand - and stood - with you! Don't listen to the haters. Haters gotta hate. The arc of history is bending towards justice for women.


4 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Charles is a registered user.

@ Dilletente.....you make some very good points, however bringing Trump into the discussion doesn't relate to the topic.

"As the 2016 election of Trump clearly demonstrated, lies, misstatements, hyperbole, outside interference, hidden personal agendas, social media manipulation, and not a little bit of populist hysteria wins the day."

One could argue that you were describing the Obama election of 2008. Anyone suggesting he had a role in the Persky recall or the de-dmocratization of the country?


61 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2018 at 3:42 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The Palo Alto neighborhood that voted for the recall, , and the Stanford community which overwhelmingly supported the recall deserve full credit.
It is not surprising at all that the NO vote received a majority in Palo Alto. I wouldn't be surprised if Palo Alto was one of the very few Santa Clara county towns, perhaps the only one, where the majority opposed the recall. As a former resident and still property owner I am ashamed of those who voted against the recall.


22 people like this
Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

I don’t have the numbers but I would be very proud of Palo Alto if they indeed voted against the recall. The goal that best serves all us all is not the harshest sentence or the best messaging for some bigger crusade but how to get the two lives back on the right track. At the least, the events were poor judgement on both sides but extended hard time in prison for the student and the damage to the Judge’s life and his family in this instance was not a good result. Our courts should be places of punishment but also places of compassion - how much of either requires judgement. We don’t maintain our courts to only punish but to judge and we can’t dismiss the court when it’s judgement doesn’t meet the street’s demand.
I remember so many exceptionally bright and gifted people of great character whom I was lucky to meet and work with - and still meet - over the years in Palo Alto. Those people built a strong and charming community and I can’t believe they would have made such a mess of this. I am sorry for the judge and even for the two young people that this became the mess that it has. No one should proud of that.


205 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2018 at 5:53 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Feeling sorry for the felon who sexually assaulted an unconscious female? Was he forced to commit the crime? Where is this equivalency between criminal and victim coming from?

Please provide one example in which a sexual offender or domestic abuser who as a result of great leniency by a judge has changed his ways, repented, and stopped being a clear and present danger to women.


5 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2018 at 8:13 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The " elephant in the room " is the birth of the new social media coverage of any event by the " instant reporter " which is anyone with a cell phone camera and and opinion that " broadcasts " from YouTube, now an Alphabet company. I know that Google-YouTube has created the perfect Democracy. Even when there is a loss, including ANY kind of mass media outlet, there is a change and one has to react to the changes and still have a viable company.

Now, today, EVERYONE has access to data that fits their opinions, often FALSE data being spread by a JOURNALIST, NOT A REPORTER of facts. Many of these JOURNALISTS SPIN the news by injecting their bias. That is why I consider the word JOURNALIST an epithet for many years. The reason? The Internet allows me to fact check; I can do my own rating on the actual REPORTS of an issue.
So this all boils down to one thing: Why was this judge removed from office? I DO know his decision on that rape case made National news. This reflected on Silicon Valley and not in a good way. TANJ is what many people thought and voted. Add that an another report is that many who cannot continue to live on the West Coast ARE taking the big risk of moving East. Often bringing their bad driving habits with them.
Maybe the people who are WORKING 2+ jobs thought they would not get a square deal if they were arrested and brought before this judge and they were much poorer than this WASP who got off by " the system ". Add to that fact that many communities are opting out on the " Sanctuary State " that Governor Moonbeam signed off on. This recall my just be justified by many people who can no longer afford to living in Santa Clara County.

For those who read Sci-Fi, many will know the epithet TANJ. For others
TANJ = There Ain't No Justice....


4 people like this
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 7, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Dennis is a registered user.

Hi Hinrich,

Here is a link to the map showing the voting by precinct in PA. We did, indeed vote against it. This was linked to from a PA online page, not sure where.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

Thank-you for the link Dennis. Still a lot of good folks in Palo Alto.


15 people like this
Posted by Dotty Henderson
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Dotty Henderson is a registered user.

@Hinrich -- You describe three felony sexual assaults as "At the least, the events were poor judgement on both sides but extended hard time in prison for the student and the damage to the Judge’s life and his family in this instance was not a good result." I wonder if you would describe a burglary of your home in which you were tied up and sexually assaulted (but let me stipulate that you didn't board up all your windows) as one in which there was "poor judgement on both sides."

Many in this community have more sympathy for a privileged judge than a crime victim. Luckily the rest of the county has a clearer perspective on right and wrong.


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

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