San Francisco

Efforts to Remove Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky Continue to Grow

A petition with more than 1 million signatures calling for the immediate removal of the judge was delivered Friday.

Several efforts are taking place to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the bench, including a petition, official recall and a letter from a state senator asking the judge to resign.

On Friday, a petition with more than 1 million signatures calling for the immediate removal of the Santa Clara County judge was delivered to the state's judicial commission.

Organizers said the move is just the beginning of several efforts to remove Persky. Friday's event combined two of those efforts, one using the judicial commission and the other a voter-based effort. But there is no guarantee either will happen.

Persky has become a target for sentencing former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman outside a fraternity party last year.

"We're here today because Brock Turner made a choice to rape a woman," said Melissa Byrne, who represents the woman's advocacy group UltraViolet.

The California Commission on Judicial Performance has the power to remove Persky from the bench, but on Friday said it had no comment on the matter.

The commission was not present when the group delivered the signatures.

"Hopefully, one day people will listen to survivors as opposed to leaving boxes on ledges," Byrne said.

There is also an official recall effort for Persky, which is being led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber.

Pesky ran unopposed in Tuesday's election and is expected to begin a new six-year term in early January.

"We're going to wait just a little bit in order to roll out the exact timeline, but we're very confident it will go forward," Dauber said.

Getting official signatures for the recall effort likely will not begin until the judge starts his new term next year.

State Sen. Jim Beall along with more than a dozen legislators are also calling for Persky to resign.

"This has to be reviewed in terms of performance of the judge," Beall said. "I think it calls into question his decision-making process."

Beall signed a letter that was sent to the district attorney's office and judicial commission asking for a review of the case.

The letter comes following the release of the full court file, which includes pictures of Turner smoking marijuana.

The pictures contradict a letter Turner sent to the judge before the sentencing, which he claims he had little experience with alcohol or drugs.

But text messages, including some with an apparent drug dealer, paint a different picture.

On several occasions, Turner used the N word and referred to smoking weed, drinking and dropping acid.

The documents also show Turner inappropriately touched a woman at a party the week before the sexual assault. And on the night he was arrested, he received a group message referring to a picture of a naked woman.

Based on time stamps, prosecutors speculated he may have photographed his victim during the assault. But investigators were unable to find the photo, which was sent through a messaging app, GroupMe.

Detectives noted the app allows users to delete photos.

"His prior involvement with drugs and alcohol suggest he should have been much more responsible for his actions that night," legal analyst Steven Clark said.

Clark said Persky's sentence is legal, but also notes the public outcry could spark legislative change to increase sentencing for sexual assault cases.

"It may be this is a vehicle for legislative change when it comes to sentencing of sexual assault, but I don't think it will affect Judge Persky in this particular sentence," Clark said.

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