A California judge has requested he no longer handle criminal cases amid the fallout over the light sentence he gave to a former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an intoxicated woman.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky is the target of a recall campaign that started in June, when he sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman who passed out behind a trash bin after a fraternity party.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Presiding Judge Rise Jones Pichon issued the following statement Thursday:
"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served. Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment.
A reassignment is possible due to the request of another judge to relocate to Palo Alto. Although the Presiding Judge normally implements assignment changes in January of each year, when two judges simply want to swap assignments for which they are both eminently qualified, there is no reason to delay implementation of a change they both desire."
The assignment is subject to an annual review and takes effect Sept. 6. NBC Bay Area is attempting to reach Persky for comment.
Earlier this week, Persky recused himself from a key decision in another sex crime case. And on Wednesday, a woman's advocacy group rallied in front of a state building in San Francisco to add pressure to unseating Persky.
Michelle Dauber, the Stanford law professor behind the recall effort, said that while the move from Persky is welcome, the recall attempt will continue, in part because Persky "can still transfer back to hearing criminal cases any time he chooses."
"The issue of his judicial bias in favor of privileged defendants in sex crimes and domestic violence still needs to be addressed by the voters of Santa Clara County," Dauber said in an email. "In our opinion, Judge Persky is biased and should not be on the bench."
Prosecutors sought a six-year sentence in Turner's case, but Persky followed a recommendation by the county probation department to sentence him to six months in prison. Turner could have faced up to 14 years in prison.
The 23-year-old victim read an impassioned statement at the sentencing hearing. She described the assault in graphic detail and said her "independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition."
Hundreds of thousands rallied to her cause in online petitions decrying Persky's sentence, and her statement was even read on the floor in Capitol Hill, so it could be entered into the congressional record.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.