Judge Aaron Persky was widely criticised after sentencing convicted sex offender Brock Turner to six months in jail
The California judge who was criticised internationally for handing down a light sentence to convicted rapist Brock Turner has requested to no longer hear criminal cases. Judge Aaron Persky, who was facing a recall, was condemned worldwide after the victim impact statement of the woman Turner assaulted when she was unconscious outside a fraternity party was shared widely online.
Prosecutors had asked for Stanford student and swimmer Turner to receive a six-year sentence for the January 2015 assault, but Persky instead imposed a six-month sentence. Turner will be eligible for early release next month from the California correctional system. Nearly 1.3m people then pledged their support to an online petition asking for Persky to be recalled from his position as a judge in Santa Clara.
Now Persky, effective September 6th, will only hear civil cases, with sources claiming he came to the decision in the hope of preventing criminal cases at which he would be presiding receiving unfair and unwarranted media attention. The judge had been expected to rule on a case involving a plumber accused of possession child pornography last week, but recused himself in light of the media coverage the case was receiving.
"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served," said Judge Risë Jones Pichon.
"Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment."
While the activists who had led the charge to have Persky recalled from his office were happy to see him remove himself from criminal cases, the head of The Recall Judge Persky Campaign said that the group will still pursue its goal.
"We are relieved that Judge Persky will not be handling criminal cases, at least temporarily. However, he will still be a judge, and judges rotate annually in our county. He can still transfer back to hearing criminal cases any time he chooses," said Michele Dauber.
"The issue of his judicial bias in favour of privileged defendants in sex crimes and domestic violence still must be addressed by the voters of Santa Clara County. Furthermore, judicial bias is just as serious regardless of whether a case is civil or criminal. Many issues affecting women are heard in civil court every day."