Residents of California’s Santa Clara County voted Tuesday to recall Aaron Persky, the judge who sentenced former Stanford University student Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexual assault.
Following months of sparring between opposing factions, the pro-recall campaign won the June 5 special election to remove Persky from the bench. Persky holds an elected judicial position, and his term was set to end in 2022.
He is the first judge in California to be successfully recalled since 1932.
The recall effort sparked bitter debate between women’s rights advocates who believed Turner received too lenient a sentence, and those who feared Persky’s removal by popular vote would undermine the judicial system.
The Santa Clara County Bar Association opposed the recall, with prominent local attorneys like public defender Molly O’Neal voicing their support for Persky. But nearly 100,000 constituents signed a petition to put the recall to a vote, evincing the public outcry that followed Turner’s sentencing.
Persky came under fire after he delivered his 2016 sentencing of Turner, who was a freshman at Stanford when he was accused of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus in 2015.
Turner was convicted on three felony assault charges: sexual assault of an unconscious person, sexual assault of an intoxicated person and sexual assault with intent to commit rape.
He faced up to 14 years in prison, but Persky sentenced him to six months in a county jail and three years of probation, in part, he said, due to “mitigating” factors like the role that alcohol played in the assault. Turner was released after just three months and was required to register as a sex offender.
Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who led the recall effort, hailed the election’s outcome and quoted the words of Emily Doe, the woman Turner raped.
“This victory is not just for Emily Doe, but it’s a victory for girls and women everywhere,” Dauber said. “To girls and women everywhere, we are with you.”
Turner filed an appeal to his sexual assault conviction in December and has insisted the encounter was consensual.
The California Commission on Judicial Performance conducted an inquiry into possible misconduct by Persky following Turner’s trial and said it found no “clear and convincing evidence of bias.”
Persky has defended his decision in the case, saying at a May 31 rally that judges must “tune out public opinion.”
But many victims’ rights advocates were outraged at what they felt was an overly lenient sentence granted to Turner based on his privilege as a white male and a star athlete.
“This historic campaign is part of a national social movement to end impunity for athletes and other privileged perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women,” Dauber told HuffPost in February.