Dear fellow classmates,
Remember Brock Turner? Though his case began over two years ago, I still remember Emily Doe’s harrowing account of the assault, juxtaposed with Brock Turner’s sentence of only six months.
Six months for sexually assaulting a woman.
Let me draw your attention to the judge who ordered this sentence: Judge Aaron Persky. By law, Turner was subject to a statutory guideline minimum of two years and a maximum of 14 years in prison and should not have been eligible for probation. However, Judge Persky made an exception for Turner, sentencing him to just six months in a county jail under the reasoning that a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Persky fails to realize it’s his astonishingly short sentence that has the true “severe impact,” by communicating to other sex offenders that they will not be held accountable for their actions. Because of his sentence, victims of sexual assault could be less inclined to report these crimes for fear that justice will not be served. That is unacceptable. Turner ended up only serving three months before being released. Prosecutors asked that Turner be sentenced to six years: that’s 12 times longer than the sentence Persky gave to Turner and 24 times longer than how long Turner was actually in jail.
This isn’t the first time Persky has demonstrated leniency towards privileged individuals convicted of sex crimes or violence against women. In 2015, Judge Persky sentenced Robert Chain, a white man convicted of felony for child pornography, to only four days in jail. This was not a plea bargain with the district attorney, but rather it was an offer made by Judge Persky himself. Persky also said he would be “receptive” to reducing Chain’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor after only one year of probation – against the recommendation of the probation report. Every other judge in Santa Clara County has sentenced defendants of the same crime to six months. As citizens, we need consistency in our judicial system, and Persky fails to provide this.
Judge Persky is a former Stanford athlete and was captain of the Stanford Lacrosse Team. As a Stanford student, I’m not proud to have Persky or Brock Turner associated with the University. I doubt that many people are. However, there’s no use sitting around feeling ashamed. Brock Turner’s out of jail, and his case is over. We cannot change the fact that Turner did not serve even close to what he deserved. But what about the next time this happens? Are we going to let Judge Persky excuse another sex offender? We cannot afford to sit around when there is someone in power who cannot deliver justice, especially when it’s their job to do so. We need judges who will acknowledge that violence against women is a serious issue and take concrete steps to prevent it from happening. The time is up for judges like Persky.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors placed the recall of Judge Persky on the June 5th ballot. Some have argued that removing Persky would be a threat to judicial independence by pressuring judges to issue harsher sentences, potentially hurting the poor and people of color. However, this idea of maintaining judicial independence rests on the belief that a judge can rule impartially. Persky has proven through his history of leniency to college athletes and other privileged males that this impartiality does not exist. This isn’t the judicial independence we seek to preserve. We don’t seek to recall Persky for harsher sentences. We seek to recall Persky because of his historically consistent bias in favor of privileged men like Brock Turner and Robert Chain.
Students have the right under the law to register to vote in Santa Clara County and to vote out Judge Persky. You can vote in either your home state or here (but not both). Changing your registration takes less than a minute, and you can do it online here. I urge you to exercise your right to vote in Santa Clara County in the Judge Persky recall election this June. Enough is enough — we must recall Persky now.
Kasey Luo ’21