Washington Post The six-month sentence handed down to a former Stanford University student in a high-profile sexual assault case has been met with outrage — much of it aimed at the judge.
Prosecutors argued that Brock Turner’s three felony convictions should have landed him in state prison for six years. Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sent Turner instead to the county jail, as probation officials recommended.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said, citing Turner’s age, 20, and his lack of criminal history — comments and reasoning that have landed the judge in the middle of a national firestorm and made him the subject of searing criticism.
State legislators have called Persky’s decision “baffling and repugnant.” And a recall effort has garnered thousands of signatures to an online petition and thousands in donations to the campaign, said Michele Dauber, a Stanford Law School professor who was outraged by the sentencing.[...]
To those who have worked with Persky in the legal community, the attacks on his judgment are shocking in their own right. They describe the judge as an intelligent jurist who knows the law and carefully applies it.
Before his time on the bench, Persky worked as a prosecutor for the district attorney’s office. A public defender who often argued cases against him said Perksy would aggressively and effectively argue to have sexually violent predators stay in prison, asking for their terms to be extended because he believed they continued to pose a threat.
The lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Stanford case has been so divisive in their community, said Persky would find victims from even decades-old cases to prevent defense attorneys from gaining the convicted offenders’ release from prison.
Persky argued those types of cases before Robert Foley, a veteran judge who said he was “absolutely one of the best lawyers who ever appeared in my court.” Persky often appeared in Foley’s courtroom, where, the judge said, he was “credible, ethical and honest.” [...]
Andy Gutierrez, a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County, said many colleagues would not hesitate to take a difficult case to the judge, because they know he will treat each one on its merits and not be swayed by public sentiment. He said that while he sometimes hears reports of certain judges treating their clients, especially minority clients, unfairly, he has never heard that complaint about Persky.
“To the contrary, he has gone out of his way to improve our criminal justice system and, where possible, soften the harsher edges of the criminal justice system in regards to its treatment of indigent persons,” he wrote in an email.[...]
The case file includes a report from a probation officer, which notes a conversation between the officer and the victim.
“I want him to be punished, but as a human, I just want him to get better,” the victim said, according to the probation officer’s report. “I don’t want him to feel like his life is over and I don’t want him to rot away in jail; he doesn’t need to be behind bars.”
In her statement to the court, however, the victim said her words were misinterpreted.
“When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness,” she wrote in her statement. “My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context.”
In the statement, she disputed part of the account, and called the probation officer’s recommendation “a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women.” [...]
Persky has received threats in the wake of his decision, according to Gary Goodman, deputy public defender in Santa Clara County and the supervising attorney in the Palo Alto office. Goodman said he was was alarmed that someone he described as level-headed, smart and respectful would be targeted in such a vindictive way.
“While I strongly disagree with the sentence that Judge Persky issued in the Brock Turner case I do not believe he should be removed from his judgeship,” Jeffrey Rosen, the district attorney for Santa Clara County, said in a written statement. “I am so pleased that the victim’s powerful and true statements about the devastation of campus sexual assault are being heard across our nation. She has given voice to thousands of sexual assault survivors.” [...]