Aaron Persky is widely known as the Santa Clara judge who sentenced convicted rapist Brock Turner—the former Stanford swimmer who assaulted his victim behind a dumpster—to six months in county jail. Since then, critics have picked up on Persky’s leniency toward domestic abusers and sexual predators: In a 2011 gang-rape civil case, the judge let the defendants introduce scantily clad photos of the victim to disprove that she had PTSD. On the day of Turner’s sentencing, he also gave Ming Hsuan Chiang 12 weekends in county jail after pleading “no contest” to beating his ex-girlfriend, who testified that she’d been put through “torture.”
The cases moved volunteers to start a petition to unseat Persky from his Superior Court bench. The California constitution dictates that they’d need 58,634 signatures (20 percent of the votes cast for the judge) by next month to force an election. If it gets to that point, Perskey’s opponent will be Santa Clara assistant district attorney Cindy Hendrickson, who announced her candidacy earlier this year.
Hendrickson, who’s held her position for 20 years, told Broadly she wasn’t interested in the Superior Court position at first but was eventually convinced by the well-supported petition. While she didn’t specifically criticize Persky, citing the California Code of Judicial Ethics, Hendrickson tried to make it clear that she wants the victims to have a voice in the judicial process.
“We wanted to make sure [victims] felt involved in the process,” Hendrickson said, recalling her prosecution experience, “that they understood what was going on, that they didn’t feel like it was something else that was happening to them.”
If Hendrickson does succeed in unseating Persky, she’d be a rare case. Only two such recall efforts have been successful in California history: One in 1913 for a judge who reduced bail for a defendant accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, and again in 1932 for three judges who used their positions for their financial benefit. Hendrickson will served the remainder of Persky’s term (until 2022) if she wins.
Meanwhile, Mountain View Voice has reported that Persky has hired one of Donald Trump’s political consultants to prepare for a ballot. Earlier this month, Brock Turner filed to appeal his conviction. He served just three out of his six-month sentence.